Pentagon to Extend Benefits to Same-sex Military Spouses

Extended benefits include health care and housing; military to grant leave to same-sex couples to marry interstate.

Same-sex spouses of members of the U.S. military will be given the same benefits as other married couples, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

The U.S. military said it would extend benefits such as health care and housing to legally married same-sex couples from September 3 in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down a law that had prohibited federal benefits for same-sex couples.

The couples would be required to provide a valid marriage licence and many benefits would be retroactive to the Supreme Court's decision.

"It is now the department's policy to treat all married military personnel equally," U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a memo announcing the change.

His predecessor, Leon Panetta, in February had already loosened some regulations that had kept same-sex couples from receiving other services, but could not go further because of a now-overturned law known as the Defense of Marriage Act.

In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama's administration repealed a policy that had kept homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

Thirteen of the 50 U.S. states allow gay marriage, but many more have banned it, leaving same-sex couples to face a patchwork of state and federal laws governing their unions.

The military would provide leave for couples to travel to states that allow gay marriage in order to be wed if they are stationed in areas that prohibit the unions.

Since the Supreme Court's decision, Secretary of State John Kerry also announced that same-sex married couples would have U.S. visa applications considered in the same way as other married couples.