Why Overturning DOMA Affects the Military More Than You Think

Why Overturning DOMA Affects the Military More Than You Think

When the Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional on June 26, political parties buzzed with reactions ranging from celebration to outrage. Debates immediately ensued as to how the overturning would affect taxes or traditional family values. One issue, however, has been largely overlooked: how DOMA's demise will affect those within the military.

Take, for instance, Army wife Ashley Broadway. Due to her status as 'same-sex spouse', Broadway has been ineligible for Tricare and many other military spouse benefits, paying out-of-pocket medical bills on top of her monthly insurance payments. Once she enrolls in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), however, not only will she become eligible for Tricare, but she will also be able to file for reimbursement for all expenses incurred since June 26, which, in her case, total around $5,000 to date.

Even retired same-sex military couples will be entitled to retroactive medical expense reimbursement. Retirees will also be covered alongside their same-sex spouses under the Survivor Benefit Plan.

On September 3, Broadway and her wife, Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack, will get their military ID cards made – the first day such benefits will be made available to same-sex spouses. With such identification, Broadway, Mack, and other same-sex spouses will be granted access to commissaries, welfare, and recreation programs, to name a few.

Conservatives, on the other hand, have expressed concern over potentially negative military side effects – namely the conundrum military chaplains will face when same-sex couples seek marriage counseling or marriage retreat participation. Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty, stated that "most chaplains come from evangelical, orthodox backgrounds who hold to the belief and understanding that marriage is the union of one man and one woman", expressing fear that these types of chaplains will be "discriminated against for their rightly-held religious beliefs." According to Crews, some chaplains have already experienced "recrimination for their positions", citing one chaplain who was reassigned after openly opposing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal. Crews further indicated that he would work to see that legal language would protect chaplains' religious consciences, unpopular though they may be.

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