No Benefits for Gay MilSpouses

ribbon cutting house

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.

56 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.

    • But my 2 cents on the issue, I feel it is completely unfair. If you are legally married, no matter who it is to, you should recieve the benefits. I'm sure they would be more than willing to jump through the same hoops we did when we married our service members. The military needs to get rid of the antiquated system of putting too much emphasis on whether or not their members are black, white, gay, straight, male, female, etc. A fellow military spouse to me is just that, a fellow military spouse. Like the author said, they go through the same stresses (if not more due to not being afforded the same luxuries). And honestly, if someone saves my husband's life or that of another service member, my first question isn't going to be, "Are you gay?" It's not going to be a question at all. It's going be "THANK YOU!"

      • What are you nuts! Marriage was meant to be a sacrement between a man and a woman only. Gay marriages cannot and will not ever be treated the same. A man and a man cannot bring life into the world, nor a woman and a woman can for that matter. Why should they receive the same benefits as married couples. In God's eyes, if you care to read the bible, is an abomination. Look it up! Marriage was created to bring life into the world, not to make fun of it. I think you need to go back to Church to learn what marriage is and what the church is all about. To think it's alright, is simply wrong. Let me ask you a question. If you were gay and had a gay lover, who had a son, who's going to explain sex to the boy? As I see it you cannot or will ever be able to fill the shoes of a father. So, how can you say that gay couples should receive the same benefits as that of a married man with woman should get. Gay couples are people too, but they do not and should not have the same benefits equal to a man and a woman in the bond of marriage.

        • You're joking, right? You clearly did not see where the OP said to leave politics and religion out of this debate, yet you just had to throw in your two cents. Save it for your church; no one else wants to hear it.

        • nmw, This is 2011, if you haven't figured out respect for human beings because of your religion then you're a lost cause.

        • 1. Check your facts. Many straight couples can't bear children. So does that mean they shouldn't be able to commit to one another? 2. I have read the bible, have you? The bible speaks of many things being an "abomination"… some activities I'm sure you partake in. 3.
          Specifically what Church is the "right" one? Seeing as this country has 100s. 4. Are you kidding about explaining sex to kids? And last if you don't serve in the military, and I assume you don't. MInd your own business.

      • MidwestGirl | July 19, 2011 at 9:37 am |

        And that is the crux of the issue – according to federal law, they are not legally married.

  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.

    • Hmmm…not necessarily true that all states must recognize it. In some states you can be considered a common law spouse after cohabitation with the same partner for so many number of years. Other states do not recognize common law marriages at all. What each state recognizes is on that state. A gay couple can get married in MA because it is recognized as legal in that state, but if that couple moves to another state that does not recognize gay marriages as legal, they have no obligation to recognize it.

      That being said, the military is a federal institution that is run by the government and is not subject to following a state's law. That's like marijuana being in some form, legal (under the correct circumstances) in California but if caught by the federal government with possession, they have no legal obligation to follow California law because Federal law trumps state laws.

    • You're right that's the way it should be. However with the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government, and therefore the military, is prohibited from recognizing any same sex marriage. The Act also allows individual states to ignore same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

      We're working on this right now though, we have several cases in federal court.

    • U.S. Army (SFC) | December 18, 2011 at 9:23 pm |

      The military was forced to adbide my Congress and the President on repealing DADT and should not repeal the Marriage Act because of social pressure. And please do NOT tell me it was the same as when blacks were not accepted (totaly different).
      What happens if a gay couple adopts or has a child then separate/divorce, usually the judge gives custody to the mother, what happens when it's two men….but anyway the laws are written for a marriage of two opposite sex. If you don't like the law, get out and get a civilian career.

  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!

    • Indeed. The problem (maybe I shouldn't call it a problem…) is not with the DoD, because it's the federal laws that tie the DoD's hands… except that I can't see the DoD sanctioning military benefits for gay couples anyway. …This is a hard conversation to have without entering into hard core politics.

      I live on post and have a young child, we're often by ourselves for long periods of time do to hubby's training and deployment schedule.. would I mind having a gay or lesbian couple living next door? Absolutely not.. in fact, it'd probably be an improvement.

  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.

    • Heather, its women like you that make me gay

      • Lesbian Guest | January 13, 2012 at 11:03 am |

        I just feel sorry for her closed minded ignorance. Marriage is two adults in a committed, loving relationship who vow to spend their lives together loving and treating each other with dignity and respect. And those two adults gay, lesbian, trans, bi or even straight should be treated equally by our United States Government. We the people… ALL of the people.

  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

    • And their marriages are affecting you exactly how? They're not.

    • Heterosexual people are not any more moral than homosexuals. Besides, whose morals, and why would it bother anyone what people do in their own houses? I am pretty sure there are enough hetero couples out there who "explore" outside my moral standards, does it bug me? Nope, not my business!

    • @dana really?? a blow up doll… with that said i guess all people don't need to be treated equally.

    • Dana you need to re check your grammar. The post is impossible to read clearly. It is obvious you have no military pride.

  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?

    • Its called freedom. "The land of the free" ever heard that? Straight military members have the choice to marry and receive benefits for their partner. My observations with my friends on base… they get married before reporting to new units. Also if you are not active duty or a veteran mind your own business.

  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.

    • Derek A. Fuzzell | September 25, 2011 at 11:52 am |

      Actually, I believe this country was built on the foundation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence which proclaim no state religion. Therefore, people should quit trying to dictate others lives on religious principles. As far as benefits, I do think that benefits should be available for Married couples regardless of sexual orientation. I find according to the 14th Amendment that all people must be treated equally under the law. There was no exception written in such as except if you're gay or purple or Anglican.

    • drgnbttrfly | November 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

      So, tell me exactly, what you mean by "correctly". Your religion, or mine? Pentecostal, Anglican, Unitarian, Catholic, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, Mormon, Baptist, Deist, or Agnostic? That isn't a complete list, but I think you get the idea. We are entitled to freedom of religion. I guess you missed the memo.

    • Just in case you don't know the first ten bill of rights it clearly states the freedom from religion our country says we can choose whatever we want to believe in. Meaning that our country was not built on religion. It was built on the rights of the people to be free. But then up tight pricks like you decided to deny the rights of homosexuals because it wasn't in your religion's standards. I am a christian and I am in a fully commited relationship with someone in the military. If they were brave enough and willing to risk sacrificing there life so that you can sit on your butt to be free, why do you care about what goes on within the privacy of there own home. I know for a fact that my partner doesn't give a flip what you do in your home. People should be more worried about what is going on in there own house and maybe we wouldn't have so many 12-17 year olds having babies and not being able to even get a high school diploma.

  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. USNavyVet | March 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm |

    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. USNavyVet | March 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm |

    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.

    • The military is suppose to represent the highest quality of human beings the U.S! If civilians can except gays in the military then that says to me we are not the perfect example that we should be. It is okay when that gay person saves your life, is there for you when you have family, financial, career issues, but they are not good enough to recieve the same benefits as a straight person. I think that is selfish and unethical!

  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!

  25. If a solider is lost fighting for this country there loved ones deserve the piece of mind that they will be okay the same as everyone else it should not matter if its 2 men or women. If your husband was saved by a gay man would you be feeling the same way? I hope one day you wake up and realize how ignorant you sound. If not it will be a long military life for you considering how many gay men there are in the military.

  26. Wow. I hAve deployed serval times I am a woman married to a woman she has done all the things you went.threw how is it any different

  27. I agree with the others. You are a sad person ArmyNGWife. And dumb. Don't you think if your "god" was so great he would control the gay population better? Because he is doing a shit job of it.

  28. This topic isn't ridiculous, but you are. I am a military spouse and it is entitled people like you who make us look bad. I think you need to pray long and hard about the hate you have in your heart.

  29. I am a women who has fought in two wars for you to say all the ignorant thngs you are saying now. I am the soldier who has to see dead bodies and write reports to people like you and bare the faces in my mind forever so that people like you can sleep at night. I am the gay person that saves your straight husband so that he can come home to you at night. I am the person that sacrifice my life for so many leaving my spouse behind and my kids and i recieve nothing extra. If you can sleep well knowing that we risk our lives everyday for your straight spouse.

  30. As a fellow military wife, I'd like to congratulate you on your amazing ability to continue shopping.

    Seriously? You think you're ENTITLED to things because of your gender? You think you're ENTITLED to things because you're straight? We do not fight like our husbands do. I do not have "the toughest job in the corps." When my husband and I are apart from each other, it sucks. We miss each other. But while I "keep my life going" like a competent adult, he's being shot at. He's risking his life for us. And there are gay service members doing the exact same thing he does. How dare you claim to be more entitled to benefits than someone who actually DOES something for this country? Get over yourself.

  31. hetromale | April 6, 2013 at 4:06 am |

    i'm sorry but your obviously gonna wake up one day and not have a husband you are full of hate and no one regardless of gender will ever truly love you.

  32. I agree and just to add there are gay families that have kids! I was in a 6 yr relationship with kids and had to leave my family and pretend that my spouse was my friend. I also had to survive off a private pay check and my spouse had to shop at a regular civilian store which is more expensive. Eventually, the stress tok a toll on our relationship and she left me. She could not understand why would I want to serve a country that did not recognize my family or my sexuality. How do you cope? Who do you talk to when the military says my family is not as important as a straight person?

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