The military will give benefits to gay troops' spouses starting September 3. Almost as important, NBC News reports, the Pentagon will actively address a problem created when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act but didn't declare a state ban on gay marriage unconstitutional: What happens when a soldier marries in a state that allows gay marriage but then is relocated to one that doesn't? Not only will the Pentagon recognize a marriage conducted legally no matter where the soldier is posted, it will give troops living outside the 13 states, plus Washington, D.C., that allow gay marriage several days of leave to travel somewhere that will let them get hitched.
Troops will be able to use this marriage leave only once in their military careers. Soldiers stationed outside the U.S. will have up to 10 days of leave; soldiers inside the U.S. but more than 100 miles from a state that allows gay marriage will get seven days. That covers a lot of troops, because so many military bases are in the South and Southwest.
Remember that frequently-quoted statistic that there are a thousand benefits for married people that same-sex couples were excluded from by DOMA? Well there are even more in the military, because the military controls much more of soldiers' lives. Being a spouse means access to the military health care plan, a chance to live together in subsidized housing on or off post, a bigger salary, privileges to shop at the grocery stores and shops on base (which often offer discounts), the right to be the first one notified if a spouse is wounded or killed in war. On top of his or her base pay, a married troop gets a housing allowance, a cost-of-living adjustment if stationed overseas, and separation pay when deployed away from a spouse. That matters a lot — a first year Army private makes $18,194 a year. As Stars and Stripes points out, when a married couple has children, housing allowances can reach up to $30,000 a year.
Spousal benefits will be backdated to June 26, 2013 — the day the Supreme Court struck down DOMA.