Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act

The Problem

With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” lesbian and gay service members are at long last able to serve their country openly and honestly. However, repeal did not address a significant inequity still facing these brave men and women: namely, that their families were still not treated equally by the federal government, either during their service or upon retirement.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. United States, meaning the federal government should now recognize lawfully-married same-sex couples.  The Defense Department has made clear that same-sex military spouses will now be treated equally for benefits purposes, even if the couple does not live in a state that recognizes their marriage.  However, because of certain provisions of the laws governing the Veterans Administration, at least some same-sex veteran spouses still may not have access to important benefits which are available to other veteran families.  These benefits are central to caring for and honoring our veterans and their families.


What is the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act?

The Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act (MSETA) would provide the same family benefits to lawfully-married lesbian and gay service members and veterans as are already provided to service members and veterans with different-sex spouses, regardless of where they live. The bill includes lesbian and gay military spouses in the definition of “spouse” for the purposes of Titles 10, 32, 37 and 38 of the United State Code.

Spouse is defined as any individual who is married in a U.S. state that recognizes that marriage as valid. The definition of spouse also includes any individual who is married outside the U.S. if the marriage is valid in the place in which the marriage was entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a U.S. state.


Equal Benefits for All Service Members

MSETA would ensure in statute that lesbian and gay service members and veterans have equal access to basic but vital family benefits.  Such benefits include health care, family leave, housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances and the right to be buried beside the one you love.


Action in the 113th Congress?

MSETA was reintroduced in the 113th Congress in the House of Representatives by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) and in the Senate by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) on February 14, 2013. MSETA was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on July 24, 2013, by a bipartisan voice vote.


What is the Current Status of the Bill?

MSETA is yet to be introduced in the 114th Congress


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Last Updated: March 11, 2015