No Benefits for Gay MilSpouses

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As the full repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule approaches, details are emerging on the question of just what benefits gay spouses of military members can receive. And the answer is “not many.”

According to a story today at, gay spouses can expect to receive almost no benefits afforded other military spouses. The only exception seems to be surrounding some death benefits. Gay partners are permitted to be notified if a servicemember dies and named as beneficiary to death payouts. But all other military death benefits, such as base privileges, memorial help and even details of the death are denied, the story says.

The denials are based on a federal marriage act under which the Defense Department operates. That rule only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. Because of it spouse benefits are reserved for only those married to a person of the opposite sex – even if the marriage is recognized as legal in certain states.

For gay spouses this means no government ID cards, no help with military moves, no commissary, exchange or base recreation privileges, no Tricare, no BAH for lower married gay servicemembers, no sanctioned on-base housing, no dependent payouts, and no special joint duty assignments for those who are also in the service.

According to the story, DoD said these rules may be bent in some “hardship” circumstances. But critics say having rules that are only enforced for some is a recipe for disaster.

Without getting into a political discussion, tell us what you think. Gay spouses, just like girlfriends, boyfriends, fiancés, parents and other spouses, all experience the hardship of deployment and separation. Do you think these benefits rules are fair and, if not, what should change?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

24 Comments on "No Benefits for Gay MilSpouses"

  1. Suffice it to say, I think they are fair based on the Federal Marriage Act. I will leave it at that to honor your request to keep out a political discussion.

  2. molliekathryn | July 18, 2011 at 10:29 am |

    Just because something is "fair" under a certain act doesn't mean it is right. I don't see the harm in allowing gay couples base housing, privileges, etc. In the civilian world, almost everyone has gay neighbors and get along just fine. I'm not sure what these "restrictions" are aiming to accomplish, but it seems to me a person is a person.

  3. This is a consequence of not thinking through a law, which happens all often….. The DoD cannot be held responsible for this because they are bound by yet another law. Their hands are tied.

    "The denials are based on a federal marriage act under which the Defense Department operates. That rule only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. Because of it spouse benefits are reserved for only those married to a person of the opposite sex – even if the marriage is recognized as legal in certain states."

    Doesn't matter what your position is on DADT, the real lesson here is that lawmakers often refuse to do the hard work and look at all the unintended consequences of their actions. It's like the old saying, "If you have to explain a joke, it's not funny." Well, if you have to keep applying "fixes" to laws so that they can work as intended, then it wasn't written well to begin with. A little common sense goes a long way…..

  4. I agree with 'Guest' above me. It should have been corrected completely the first time around. But as stated before, the federal government often puts the cart before the horse when making decisions and usually takes the easy way out on tough decisions. I work for the USN and my hubby is USAF. So dealing with Congressional inadequicies is common place for me.

  5. thunderman115 | July 18, 2011 at 9:29 pm |

    I have one word for ya…..TOUGH

  6. Guest-Navy wife | July 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm |

    While I understand the law, I have to disagree. I think that if a same sex couple has been legally married by a state where it is legal, they should be entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual military spouses. It follows the constitutional law that if you are married in one state, all other states must recognize it. Why shouldn't the military recognize it as well.

  7. nnw–What do you mean by, “Who’s going to explain sex to the boy?” I don’t understand the issue.

  8. Married to the Navy | July 19, 2011 at 8:59 am |

    Interesting that this has turned into a religious discussion instead of a political one. Just as bad, in my opinion. I have gay friends in committed relationships, and their relationships and values aren’t that different from any hetero couple I know. I agree that if someone saves my husband’s life, I couldn’t care less whether they’re gay!

  9. SemperSteen | July 19, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    I just think it's pathetic that heterosexual "couples" in the military can get married for no reason other than BAH, education benefits, health care, etc, yet gay couples in legitimate relationships are denied those privileges. No, it is not fair.

  10. Federal marriage act states that the federal gov only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman so i don't have an issues with them not being allowed to have the same benefits, I prefer it that way.

  11. gay couples dont deserve the right and benifit that man and women get. only cause one is not a man or a women, there all man or all women. gee can I marry a blow up doll, where do it say your partner has to breath ??? or have a pulse. we are getting away from or morals here… sadd

  12. I never serve in the military but that is a new set and separate set of policies that the military would have to develope if that issue of gay marital benefit was to be pushed. That would probably take an act congress.

  13. An interesting point was raised in an op-ed in the NY Times just prior to the legalization of gay marriage in New York. The writer noted that many private companies recognized "domestic partnerships" if and only if the individuals were of the same sex. The writer's concern was that the members of the New York gay communities were going to face the same restrictions that the hetero community faces… no benefits without marriage. If the DOD cannot recognize domestic partnerships/gay marriages, how is that different than what long-term hetero couples face throughout society?

  14. I'm gay and was discharged under DADT a few years ago. With full repeal just 35 days away I've been thinking hard about whether I should go active again. I know that my husband will see little to no benefits just because he is a man, which is sad. The federal government never bats an eye when giving other spouses benefits regardless of the quality of the relationship between those opposite-sex spouses.

    In any case, it might be worth noting that gay servicemembers with jointly-adopted children with their same-sex spouse or other partner will have on-base housing. And by designating the same-sex partner as the child's caregiver the partner will be entitled to share on-base housing and a few other benefits such as, of course, base access. This particular case is what encourages me, my husband and I have a son.

    Your article could use an update to reflect that just in case any gay married hopefuls don't get confused.

  15. If a military member dies while ACDU, the spouse should be cut off from any military benefits. This will save money from the budget.

  16. I have to say our country was built from religion, i don't feel they should get the same benefits be it in the military or not. You want to raise children that's up to you but please teach religion correctly. This will always be a 50/50 topic. All gays are not any more true or false in their relationships as any others. I worked in a design center and most of my friends are gay and I see just as much crap with them then any other relationships. Speak the facts don't make it up.

  17. I guess I understand why the DoD can't give them the same benefits as heterosexual married couples, though I think that law is ridiculous. I think they should absolutely have the same benefits. Hopefully it's just a matter of time before the laws can be changed to recognize all married couples everywhere.

    A marriage is between two people (which is why you can't marry a blow up doll, or your dog, or a ham sandwich or whatever else you can come up with). Generally two people get married because they love each other (I know some don't, and that is a whole separate discussion, and sounds like a miserable life anyway). And I'm pretty sure the world could use a little more love.

    I am thrilled with the repeal of DADT, as are my husband and all the rest of our friends in the military we've talked about it with. None of them seem to care if they are working alongside a gay or straight servicemember, as long as they have the training to do what is needed and are committed to the task at hand.

  18. I would love to hear more from Jake (previous comment) if he does go active again. I'd like to think that everyone would be supportive, but I'm sure there are some who won't be, Hopefully the good will outweigh the bad, and if he does go active, his husband will eventually have the same benefits as the rest of us, seeing as he has to deal with everything else that comes with being a military spouse, just like the rest of us.

  19. no offense to either party but do not put this on God he created all people with a free will and loves everyone Gay and STRAIGHT this is just some poor ignorant retard trying to speak for God so dont act like he is responsible for it bc God has nothing against gays and this is just a woman who has been taught wrong and using God as something to lean on to support her false believes i completely agree Gays and Straights should recieve the same benefits but but i dont agree should be held responsible for "controling the gay population" as u say

  20. sry ignore last post was meant as a reply for previous one

  21. Government said it is Ok! Then they should provide benefits. Very simplet! And about morality…… what next?

  22. Kathryn Scearce | November 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm |

    I think an important factor with this issue is "The Military" has to keep "The Military", a MILITARY.

  23. It is easy to say the dod is bound by laws, but no one is addressing soldiers like myself who have lost my relationship due to the law. What it is saying that I am good enough to die for my country, leave my family, represent the idol American citzen, but because I am gay I do not recieve benefits! If that is the case we should not be bound my all the military laws! The DOD is quick to say one team one fight, but because of our sexuality we are subjected to minimum assistance. I am baffled how anyone can agree with that, because we sacifice the same as any straight couple, but we are un-deserving because of are preference!

  24. Laura Faber | April 9, 2014 at 1:38 pm |

    Why is this still popping up? Things have changed a lot since 2011!

Comments are closed.