Politics

Veterans’ Affairs Committee Advances Gay Couples’ Benefits Bill

“I am pleased the Veterans’ Committee has built on the landmark progress we’ve seen for marriage equality,” bill sponsor Sen. Jeanne Shaheen says.

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WASHINGTON — The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee advanced legislation Wednesday to expand veterans’ benefits eligibility for same-sex couples who are legally married.

According to a news release from the committee, the measure — the “Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act of 2013” — introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen “would bring the [Department of Veterans Affairs] into conformance with” the June 26 ruling striking down the federal definition of marriage in the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Every individual who serves in uniform should have access to the benefits they’ve earned,” Shaheen said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed. Of the now-deceased veteran after whom the bill is named, she added, “Charlie served on the front lines for our country, but because of her sexual orientation, her family has been wrongfully being denied many of the same benefits given to those who stood beside her.”

After the June Supreme Court ruling, committee chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement that the committee would “take up this legislation next month if VA cannot implement the Supreme Court’s decision without congressional action.”

Shaheen praised the committee action and urged the full Senate to vote on the bill.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA was a victory for the belief that all Americans are to be treated equally under the law, and I am pleased the Veterans’ Committee has built on the landmark progress we’ve seen for marriage equality. I hope the full Senate will move forward on the Charlie Morgan Act so that finally no spouse, child or family is denied benefits they have earned and deserve,” she said.

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