In an unprecedented move, The Obama Justice Department announced it will no longer defend legislation denying benefits to same-sex couples receiving military and veterans' aid, as it violates the Fifth Amendment. According to Talking Points Memo, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to congressional leaders on Friday, Feb. 17:
The legislative record of these provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans' benefits to opposite-sex couples of veterans but not to legally married same-sex spouses of veterans. Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that distinction that would warrant treating these provisions differently from Section 3 of DOMA.
Holder made clear the DOJ would no longer defend provisions in Title 38 of the Veteran's Benefits act that prevent same-sex couples who are legally married from obtaining benefits. Holder's sudden firm stance on the issue comes in response to a case in Massachusetts, filed by the Servicemembers League Defense Network, titled McLaughlin v. Panetta. The main plaintiff is Shannon McLaughlin, who is in the Massachusetts National Guard and acts as Judge Advocate General. She has been married to her partner for three years and is asking for, as Holder puts it: medical and dental benefits, basic housing allowances, travel and transportation allowances, family separation benefits, military identification cards, visitation rights in military hospitals, survivor benefits, and the right to be buried together in military cemeteries.