U.S. House panel rejects spousal benefits bill for LGBT veterans


WASHINGTON — A U.S. House panel on Wednesday rejected a measure that would have enabled veterans with same-sex spouses to receive partner benefits regardless of where they reside.

us-capitolThe Washington Blade reports that the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs rejected the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act by a vote of 12-13.

Although the vote was a largely along party lines with Republicans voting “no” and Democrats voting “yes,” Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, was the only Republican who broke with his party to vote “yes” on the amendment.

Introduced in June 2013 by U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act would amend the definition of “spouse” in Title 38 of the U.S. Code to ensure equal treatment for same-sex spouses, thereby aligning the Veteran Administration with the Department of Defense and the Supreme Court ruling in Windsor v. U.S.

The change would prevent legally married LGBT veterans from losing their federal benefits if they live in a state which does not recognize marriage equality. ‘

“Today the House VA Committee had the opportunity to end this injustice by passing my amendment to ensure all veterans have equal access to the federal benefits they have earned and deserve, said Titus, in a statement.

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“It makes no sense that legally married soldiers receive benefits while in the military but can lose those benefits when they become veterans if they live in the wrong place. And it is unfair that a legally married couple can get federal VA benefits if they live in California but lose them if they move to Florida,” she said.

“Sadly, my Republican colleagues chose not to stand with our veterans and their families, and instead remained silent, allowing this discrimination to continue. They lack one ounce of the courage they so often extol as a virtue of our nation’s veterans. Shame on them.”

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