Rep. Adam Smith
Bill Introduced for Equal Spouse Benefits for Gays in Military

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com June 28 2012 1:27 PM ET

A bill was introduced Thursday that would provide military benefits to the same-sex spouses and children of gay and lesbian members of the armed services. 

Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democratic member of the the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the bill, which would require the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to recognize the legal marriages of gay service members.

The Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2012 would change the definition of "spouse" in four sections of U.S. Code. Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, praised the proposed legislation in a statement Thursday.

"Our nation's senior military leaders and commanders on the ground are increasingly uncomfortable with administering two classes of recognition, support, and benefits for our nation's service members — one of straight service members, and a different for their gay and lesbian peers," Sarvis said. "There cannot be two classes of service members, and this legislation addresses that effectively."

The step follows the official repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in 2011, which has caused the need for several policies to now be updated to be more inclusive of openly gay service members. Speaking at the Pentagon on Tuesday, Department of Defense general counsel Jeh Johnson said the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" has exposed several inequalities between gay and straight service members that must be rectified.