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Idea of the Day: The Defense of Marriage Act Undermines Our Troops

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In 2010 President Barack Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act, creating a path to allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly for the first time. Although this was a monumental achievement for our troops and for our country, gay and lesbian service members continue to face discrimination within the U.S. armed services. The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is a law that, for the purposes of the federal government, defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Despite same-sex marriage now being legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, the law prevents the federal government— and the military as a part of the federal government—from recognizing same-sex marriages. The Defense of Marriage Act governs who can be counted as a spouse in all aspects of federal policy, including enrollment in important military-benefits programs.

The United States has a moral obligation to care for its military members and their families. Congress has passed hundreds of laws intended to improve the quality of life of service members, veterans, and their families, which not only compensates military members for their sacrifices but also enables the armed forces to achieve high levels of mission readiness and effectiveness. Adequate compensation for military members and their families is necessary to the well-being of the entire force and is a critical component of our national security.

The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted before gays and lesbians were permitted to serve openly in the military and before same-sex marriages were legal in the United States. When Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, it was not confronted with the fact that the law would force the military to deny support and benefits to legally wedded same-sex spouses. But that is the current reality.

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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

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