US: House panel rejects LGBT veterans’ benefits bill

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A US House of Representatives panel has rejected a bill that would have ensured that same-sex spouses of veterans receive benefits regardless of the state they live in.

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs rejected the bill on Wednesday by a vote of 12-13.

The close vote saw members of the committee voting along party lines with Democrats voting for the bill and Republicans against. The exception was Republican Representative Jon Runyan from New Jersey.

Runyan, who voted against his party, is the co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act, introduced in June 2013, would have amended the definition of ‘spouse’ in Title 38 of the US Code to reflect the definition of spouse in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor v US and the Department of Defense post DOMA.

Currently, same-sex spouses may receive benefits in all fifty states while their spouse serves on active duty, yet that same treatment is not extended to same-sex spouses of veterans who live in states that do not recognise same-sex marriage.

Representative Dina Titus, who introduced the bill, says there is no reason for veterans to be treated any differently than active service persons.

She said: “It makes no sense that legally married soldiers receive benefits while in the military but lose those benefits when they become veterans if they live in the wrong place. Sadly, my Republican colleagues chose no.”

The house panel’s rejection of the bill comes after 32 states recently petitioned the US Supreme Court to rule on marriage equality once and for all.