WASHINGTON — Spouses of veterans in same-sex marriages will be allowed to collect federal benefits, the Obama administration announced Wednesday in a move following the Supreme Court decision that struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act in June.
President Obama directed the executive branch to stop enforcing two provisions that restricted the U.S. from awarding spousal benefits to veterans in legal gay marriages. The provisions define "spouse" as a "person of the opposite sex," Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. wrote Wednesday in a letter to Congress, adding that the Supreme Court's decision in United States vs. Windsor "strongly supports the conclusion that those provisions are unconstitutional under the 5th Amendment."
The Obama administration has made a series of policy decisions since the Windsor decision to extend federal benefits to legally married gay couples. Wednesday's announcement went further in that it declared unconstitutional and therefore invalid an existing statute that was not considered by the Supreme Court.
"The continued unwinding of discrimination against legally married couples in the aftermath of the Windsor decision is a welcome development," James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and AIDS Project, said in a statement. "The federal government is right to ensure that legally married couples, where a spouse has served valiantly in the military, are treated equally."