Scroll To Top
Marriage Equality

Senate Blocks Benefits for Veterans in Same-Sex Marriages

Senate Blocks Benefits for Veterans in Same-Sex Marriages


Eight Senate Republicans supported the effort, but the amendment fell short of receiving the 60 votes needed to pass.

An effort to ensure that veterans in same-sex marriages are able to obtain federal spousal benefits, even if they do not live in a marriage equality state, died in the U.S. Senate Thurday.

New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's amendment fell seven votes short of the 60 required for passage, reports Congressional Quarterly's blog, Roll Call. Eight Republican Senators joined all Senate Democrats (except California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who was absent,) in support of the effort.

One of those Republicans who cast his vote for the amendment was Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who told Roll Call that although he believes marriage should be the union of a man and a woman, the amendment was just "recognizing the reality of the situation" when it comes to how the federal government currently treats same-sex marriages.

"It's basically current law," Johnson said. "The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples qualify for federal benefits. I think it's putting veterans, who are legally married in a state where it's legal [then] move to another one, that's unequal treatment under the law and puts our veterans in a tough position."

The amendment, which Shaheen also introduced last year, would have extended the so-called "place of celebration" rule -- which determines eligibility for federal marriage benefits based on whether a marriage was legal in the state where it was performed -- to military veterans in same-sex marriages.

Although the federal government has been extending spousal benefits to Americans in same-sex marriages according to the "place of celebration" rule since at least June 2014, a peculiarity in the regulations controlling how the Department of Veterans Affairs determines eligibility for such benefits has excluded veterans in same-sex marriages living in states without marriage equality. Despite the Department of Justice announcement in September 2013 that it would stop enforcing Title 38 of the U.S. Code, which blocked spousal benefits for veterans in same-sex marriages, veterans seeking spousal benefits for their same-sex partners have continued to see those requests denied as recently as March.

But even some lawmakers who voted in favor of the amendment Thursday acknowledged the issue may soon become moot, if the Supreme Court extends marriage equality to all 50 states in what could be a landmark ruling expected by the end of this month. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, told Roll Call that Thursday's vote was "more [about] making a statement than trying to change a policy."

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Channel Promotion

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Be sure to follow Advocate on your favorite social platforms!


Want more news, top stories, and videos? Check out the all NEW Advocate Channel!
Your 24/7 streaming source for equality news and lifestyle trends.
Click this link right now:

Latest Stories