As the Defense Department updates its systems to offer benefits to servicemembers same-sex spouses, conservatives are outraged that these couples will be treated equally under the law. In a story run by the American Family Association, Family Research Council senior fellow Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis (retired) voiced his objections to the benefits:
MAGINNIS: [The Pentagon is] going to grant free 10 days of paid vacation for these service members to go to a state where they do perform same-sex ‘marriages’ so that they can come back to their duty installation and claim marriage benefits. I believe that’s a tragedy and a travesty as well.
Maginnis is referring to a proposed plan that might allow extra leave time for same-sex couples stationed in states that do not recognize marriage equality to travel to a state that does so that they can wed. That marriage would then be recognized by the federal government, allowing them to access benefits through the military even when they return to the state where they live and work. Obviously, even if the extra leave time proposal is not finalized, members of the military are allowed to take vacation time and to get married wherever they want to, regardless of their sexual orientation.
When the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, this meant that the federal government was no longer prohibited from recognizing same-sex marriages. As long as those marriage licenses were legal where they were obtained — their “place of celebration” — they are valid under federal law. The military has much to gain by ensuring that all servicemembers have equal access to the legal benefits of marriage, regardless of where they are stationed, which they often do not have control over. This would create uniformity throughout the military and ensure that no gay servicemembers ever suffer in morale just because of state-based discrimination. Allowing extra leave time to accommodate the patchwork accessibility of marriage equality may be the easiest way to ensure all members of the military enjoy equal protection in exchange for their service.