WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of Tacoma is proposing that the Pentagon change the definition of spouse to include same-sex couples, thereby allowing legally married gays and lesbians to collect military benefits.
Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, on Thursday introduced a bill to essentially exempt the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration from the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as between a woman and a man.
Smith’s Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act would rewrite a section of the U.S. Code to recognize husbands and wives of service members “without regard to whether the two persons are of the opposite sex or of the same sex.”
The Pentagon has already dropped its ban on openly gay service members. But the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule by itself doesn’t entitle same-sex couples in the armed forces to the same benefits as opposite-sex couples, which Smith says is discriminatory.
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats — including every Democrat from Washington state — are trying to overturn DOMA. If that legislation were to pass, it would supersede Smith’s bill.
Same-sex couples already can be legally married in six states and in the District of Columbia. In addition, Washington and Maryland legalized same-sex marriages earlier this year. A referendum on the fall ballot in Washington could overturn the new gay-marriage law.