Military to extend same-sex marriage benefits

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(CNN) — The Pentagon will permit members of the military to travel to wed same-sex partners if the community or state where they are based does not permit it, a key element of a new benefits policy unveiled Wednesday.

The Defense Department announced its intention to extended health, housing and other benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed military personnel and defense civilian employees.

That follows a presidential directive to act swiftly in complying with changes brought about by a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The military said it would make spousal and family benefits available no later than September 3, “regardless of sexual orientation” so long as a valid marriage certificate is provided.

“The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Claims are retroactive to the Supreme Court’s decision on June 26 to throw out key parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as that between a man and a woman and outlawed federal benefits for same-sex couples.

A centerpiece of the new policy would grant administrative leave to military personnel to travel to wed if where they are based does not permit same-sex marriage.

“This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married,” the statement said.

Following the high court decision, President Barack Obama ordered that federal agencies act swiftly to implement related changes.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

New Jersey and New Mexico have no laws either banning or allowing same-sex marriage.

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