Gay Issues
Gay Issues

California Judge Gives Veterans Right to Same-Sex Marriage Benefits

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A California federal judge overturned a ban preventing veterans from receiving same-sex marriage benefits on Thursday.

Judge Consuelo B. Marshall ruled that Title 38 of the U.S. Code is “unconstitutional under rational basis scrutiny” because the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. The news comes just after the Department of Veterans Affairs said last week that it could not offer benefits to same-sex couples, although DOMA was struck down, because Title 38 was still in effect.

“The Court finds that the exclusion of spouses in same-sex marriages from veterans’ benefits is not rationally related to the goal of gender equality,” the ruling stated.

“The denial of benefits to spouses in same-sex marriages is not rationally related to any of these military purposes,” Marshall wrote. “Additionally, Title 38 is not rationally related to the military’s commitment to caring for and providing for veteran families.”

The case was brought forth by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris. Tracy served in the Army for about 12 years and was honorably discharged in 2003.

Marshall also ruled on two Title 38 statutory definitions “to deny recognition of Plaintiffs’ marriage recognized by the state of California.”

“Plaintiffs also argue that Title 38 is not rationally related to any military purpose and cite Expert Declarations,” Marshall ruled. “Plaintiffs’ experts state that veterans’ benefits are essential to ensuring that servicemembers perform to their ‘maximum potential,’ and other purposes justifying veterans benefits including readiness, recruiting, cohesion and retention. The denial of benefits to spouses in same-sex marriages is not rationally related to any of these military purposes.”

The action is one of many taken to extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples, ThinkProgress points out. Same-sex couples can now file taxes jointly and receive nursing home care under Medicare.

Sources: BuzzFeed, ThinkProgress