Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today that the Pentagon will move forward to extend all military spousal benefits to service members in same-sex marriages.
“The Department of Defense welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision today on the Defense of Marriage Act. The department will immediately begin the process of implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies. The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses — regardless of sexual orientation — as soon as possible,” Hagel said in an unusual statement from a cabinet secretary after the ruling. “That is now the law and it is the right thing to do.”
“Every person who serves our nation in uniform stepped forward with courage and commitment,” he added. “All that matters is their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country, and their qualifications to do so. Today’s ruling helps ensure that all men and women who serve this country can be treated fairly and equally, with the full dignity and respect they so richly deserve.”
Yesterday, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said the Pentagon had already been directed to move forward with about 20 benefit extensions that wouldn’t need approval under federal law.
President Obama said after the ruling he’s directed Attorney General Eric Holder “to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.”
“On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also vital,” he said. “How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision – which applies only to civil marriages – changes that.”
Obama made phone calls from Air Force One en route to Senegal today to congratulate the plaintiffs in the Prop. 8 and DOMA cases.
“This is paraphrasing the President, but the President noted that the laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans have come to accept — we are all more free when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. “So he made those two calls.”
“Did he fist pump into the air or was there any sort of reaction?” a reporter asked Carney.
“He was obviously pleased,” Carney replied. “He believes that this is a very good day for civil rights in our country and was just glad to see the decisions come down as they did.”