Senate Republicans Love All Veterans Except Gay Kind
It's great to know how much Republicans love The Troops, as long as The Troops are about to go blow some stuff up somewhere and keep the world safe for whatever it is we're keeping safe this month. Once they get home, or if they're not about to go blow anything up, well, then things get more complicated. Which is why Senate Republicans blocked an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that would have provided gay veterans' spouses and families what's already Defense Department policy for active duty service members: completely equal benefits regardless of their spouse's gender. The amendment, offered by New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, was supported by all 45 Senate Democrats and eight Republicans, but the 53-42 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass.
The bill would have based veterans' benefits on the marriage laws in states where couples got married, even if they move to states that don't recognize same-sex marriage. Even some Republicans who are officially against marriage equality voted for it, like Wisconsin's Ron Johnson, who said that his vote was merely "recognizing the reality of the situation" following the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Windsor:
“It’s basically current law,” Johnson said. “The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples qualify for federal benefits. I think it’s putting veterans, who are legally married in a state where it’s legal move to another one, that’s unequal treatment under the law and puts our veterans in a tough position.
Not surprisingly, Johnson and three of the other Republicans who voted in favor of the amendment are up for re-election in blue-leaning states in 2016. Texas Sen. John Cornyn said he voted against the amendment not because he opposes gay marriage -- which he does -- but because he's pretty sure the Supreme Court will rule to make it legal nationwide, in which case the amendment to the Defense Authorization would be redundant. It's a nice bit of resignation, in contrast to Oklahoma's attempt to eliminate benefits for same-sex spouses in the National Guard by axing all spousal benefits for the state's Guard members.
Shaheen said she was "tremendously" disappointed by the amendment's failure, telling Huffington Post in an email:
Veterans served their country bravely, and yet some are deprived of the very rights they risked their lives to protect ... The impact of this discrimination is real. Monthly benefits are less; spouses and children are not eligible for medical care at the VA; and families are not eligible for the same death benefits.
Huffpo notes that because of restrictions in existing federal law:
[V]eterans in same-sex marriages who live in states that don't honor their marriage receive smaller monthly disability payments and aren't eligible to qualify for a VA home loan with their spouse. In some cases, these veterans' spouses and kids are also ineligible for VA medical care.
Gotta support the troops! Just not all of 'em, because God objects!
Senate Republicans' dickishness on providing equal benefits to all veterans will be made moot if -- nahh, let's say when -- the Supreme Court decides later this month that marriage equality is guaranteed under the Constitution; presuming that happens, all service members, gay and straight, will be too busy shipping Bible-believing Christians to FEMA re-education camps to worry too much about their veteran benefits.
Or maybe it'll just happen and apart from a lot of rightwing radio preachers predicting immediate doom, it'll be a nice summer day and veterans everywhere can get back to cursing their stupid goddamn V.A. paperwork with equal vigor, regardless of who they're married to.
[HuffPo / Roll Call via Addicting Info]
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