A federal judge in California ruled on Friday that in light of the Supreme Court's DOMA ruling, a lesbian veteran and her spouse should be eligible for veteran benefits. Previously, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied plaintiff Tracey Cooper-Harris's request for additional money and benefits that married vets are eligible to receive. Cooper-Harris suffers from multiple sclerosis, and would have been receiving $124 more per month had she married a man.
Now, Cooper-Harris and her wife Maggie will get the additional benefits. U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall ruled that a federal code defining a spouse as a person of the opposite sex is unconstitutional. She wrote, "The court finds that the exclusion of spouses in same-sex marriages from veterans' benefits is not rationally related to the goal of gender equality."
The ruling could pave the way for all gay couples to receive VA marriage benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs hasn't responded to the ruling yet, but director Eric Shinseki said previously that if the federal code was "revised or determined to be unconstitutional," then the "VA will be prepared to update its policies and systems in a timely manner." Complying with the Supreme Court's ruling has been difficult for the military in a few oddly banal ways, like that its Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System was not configured to allow spouses of the opposite sex. As Stars and Stripes explained in June, the VA had a complex system for determining whether same-sex couples got benefits based on a veteran's residence.
There's good news for active members of the military as well: the Defense Department will offer the same health care and housing benefits that straight couples receive to gay couples, starting September 3.