Judge Rules Same-Sex Couples Entitled to Military Spousal Benefits

8:58 pm Estate Planning

gavel 2 e1319495176879 Judge Rules Same Sex Couples Entitled to Military Spousal BenefitsA Los Angeles U.S. District judge has ruled that the U.S. military cannot deny spousal benefits to a California veteran in a same-sex marriage, saying that the denial of benefits does not serve any military purpose.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall made the ruling in Cooper-Harris, et al v. United States, a suit filed last year by a female Army veteran, Tracey Cooper-Harris, and her lesbian spouse, Maggie Cooper-Harris.  Tracey Cooper-Harris served active duty for nine years in the U.S. Army, including a stint in Iraq in 2003.  She married Maggie Cooper-Harris in California in 2008 when same-sex marriage was legal.

Tracey Cooper-Harris was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010 and brought suit in order to provide military benefits for her spouse.  The Department of Veterans Affairs found that the MS was related to Cooper-Harris’ military service and awarded her disability compensation, but said that her spouse did not qualify for survivor benefits if she dies.

Citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor that found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, Judge Marshall said that defining a spouse as a person of the opposite sex is unconstitutional “under rational basis scrutiny” since the high court’s decision allows legally married gay couples the right to health care benefits.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, same-sex spouses of military couples will be eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits as opposite-sex couples as of Sept. 3, 2013.

To learn more about the extension of federal benefits under Windsor, contact our Costa Mesa law firm.

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