US: Surge of weddings expected as new leave for same-sex military couples to marry kicks in

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Beginning on Tuesday, gay members of the US Military are expected to begin emptying their savings, and taking up newly available leave put in place to allow same-sex couples to travel to a state which allows equal marriage.

The Pentagon last month announced that same-sex couples in the US military will be able to get up to ten days leave in order to marry in a state where equal marriage is legal.

The Defense Department made the announcement in August, that the special leave of seven days for service members in the US, or ten days for members stationed abroad, will be available if they are more than a hundred miles from one of the thirteen states or the District of Columbia which currently allow equal marriage.

A surge of service members travelling to other US states to marry is expected, as the policy takes effect on Tuesday 3 September

“This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a memo to secretaries of the military services on announcing the policy.

The decision by the Pentagon comes after the US Supreme Court in June struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which previously defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

The department also announced the cancellation of benefits which would have taken effect this month for same-sex couples, saying that they were no longer necessary in the light of the Supreme Court ruling.

“The department will construe the words ‘spouse’ and ‘marriage’ to include same-sex spouses and marriages, and the department will work to make the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages,” Hagel said in the memo.

The American Military Partner Association, which advocates for LGBT military families, called Hagel’s memo a “huge step forward”,

A US Christian conservative group voiced disapproval at the recently announced plans, claiming that it is discriminatory towards straight people.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the ban on openly gay people serving in the US military, was repealed on 20 September 2011, amidst warnings that the US military would be aversely affected by the change.