In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government has acted swiftly to extend benefits to same-sex couples that were previously unavailable.
On Friday, the Office of Personnel Management announced that federal employees’ same-sex spouses are now eligible for numerous benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, dental and vision insurance, long-term care insurance, and retirement benefits. Similarly, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid clarified that residents in long-term care facilities or nursing homes must “be given full and equal visitation privileges.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also responded to the DOMA decision last week, announcing that the military will extend benefits to the same-sex spouses of servicemembers as soon as possible. This includes the right to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery and to access housing together. Spouses will also be able to receive identification cards and the on-base benefits that are associated with that access.
One significant milestone was reached on Friday as a same-sex binational couple from Florida became the first to receive a marriage-based green card. Julian Marsh and Traian Povov, who is from Bulgaria, married in New York last October, but DOMA had prevented that marriage from being recognized for immigration purposes. Previously, the Obama administration had attempted to deem same-sex couples “low priority” for deportation but the policy was confusing and left them in uncertain limbo. The issuing of Povov’s green card suggests that binational couples who marry in any of the states where marriage equality is legal will be protected wherever they then move under federal law.
As departments continue to adjust to the Supreme Court’s decision, more details will likely come to light about just how the end of DOMA will change the lives of same-sex couples. From just the first five days of a post-DOMA country, it’s clear that change will be significant.