In Washington, the Obama administration is moving with commendable diligence and speed to extend benefits like health care, life insurance and immigration rights to gay and lesbian married couples. We took special satisfaction from the memo sent out by the chief administrative officer of the Republican-led House informing all 435 representatives and their staff members in all 50 states that they have 60 days to enroll their same-sex spouses for benefits like vision, dental and long-term care insurance and survivors’ annuities.
House Republicans spent millions of taxpayer dollars on private lawyers’ fees to defend the Defense of Marriage Act’s indefensible discrimination when the Obama administration decided it would no longer do so.
Even now, though, there is a serious risk that legally married individuals will lose out on valuable Social Security and veterans’ benefits because language in the applicable statutes seems to determine whether couples are married based on where they live rather than where their marriage was celebrated.
The Justice Department should be exploring every legal route around that, but there should be no need for straining. A newly reintroduced bill would fulfill the letter and spirit of the Defense of Marriage Act ruling by ensuring that the elderly, veterans who risked their lives for their country and others are not excluded from federal benefits even if they live in states where their marriages are not recognized.