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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Veterans' Benefits and Same-Sex Marriage

As summer concludes and the federal bureaucracy returns to their Washington offices, the fall-out from SCOTUS' United States v Windsor decision continues.  The latest example of bright-line policy declarations comes from Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, regarding veterans benefits for same-sex couples.

In his letter last week to House Speaker John Boehner, the AG instructs Congress that the Executive Branch will no longer be enforcing various sections of federal law dealing with benefits to veterans and their spouses.  To the extent that the targeted portions of the statute mirrored definitions of a married couple as defined in the Defense of Marriage Act, they are stricken.

The effect of this new policy is to open up the availability of federal benefits to same-sex spouses of service members, both active duty and reserves.  Citing the Fifth Amendment's equal protection clause, as well as a recent federal judge's decision that the targeted provisions of the federal veterans benefits statute were unconstitutional on 5th Amendment equal protection grounds, Holder advised Congress that enforcement of these provisions were no longer appropriate.  In doing so, he also remarked that instances where the Executive Branch cannot enforce federal law are, "appropriately rare."

All of these policy pronouncements coming out of Washington over the past few months points to the massive task of re-writing a significant portion of the United States Code in light of the demise of DOMA, and in favor of valid same-sex marriages.  We here at the Law Blogger, while recognizing the significant gains this civil rights struggle has made, have to wonder how well-accepted these new federal laws and regulations will be across the board and throughout the country.

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