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Same-sex married spouses may get military benefits by end of August

BY LOLITA C. BALDOR, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Same-sex spouses of military members could get health care, housing and other benefits by the end of August under a proposal being considered by the Pentagon. But earlier plans to provide benefits to gay partners who are not married may be reversed.

A draft Defense Department memo obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press says the department instead may provide up to 10 days of leave to military personnel in same-sex relationships so they can travel to states where they can marry legally.

The memo from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to top defense leaders, if implemented, would reverse an earlier plan that would have allowed the same-sex partners of military members to sign a declaration form in order to receive limited benefits, such as access to military stores and some health and welfare programs.

The recent Supreme Court decision extending federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples eliminates the need for such a plan, Hagel said in the draft.

"As the Supreme Court's ruling has made it possible for same-sex couples to marry and be afforded all benefits available to any military spouse and family, I have determined, consistent with the unanimous advice of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the spousal and family benefits far outweigh the benefits that could be extended under a declaration system," Hagel wrote.

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