House Republicans will no longer defend a law that bars married, same-sex couples from receiving veterans' benefits available to married heterosexual couples. On Thursday, Buzzfeed reported that the House, responding to a Thursday deadline in a federal lawsuit challenging the veterans' benefits provision, asked to "withdraw as a party defendant" from the case.
The Title 38 definition of "spouse" in the U.S. Code that governs veterans' benefits specifies — twice — that the person in question must be of the "opposite" sex in order to qualify. For married veterans and their partners, that effectively limits spousal benefits to straight couples. It's very similar to the language of the DOMA provision struck down in the Windsor decision, which is in part why the Department of Justice hasn't defended the law since 2012, after the administration's decision to stop defending DOMA itself. The Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives, controlled by the GOP, has been defending the provisions ever since. Until today.
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Here's the key passage from the motion filed by the Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives:
The Windsor decision [of the Supreme Court] necessarily resolves the issue of DOMA Section 3's constitutionality in this case. While the question of whether [Title 38] is constitutional remains open, the House has determined, in light of the Supreme Court's opinion in Windsor, that it no longer will defend that statue. Accordingly, the House now seeks to leave to withdraw as a party defendant.
The House's decision to step away from Title 38 will actually resolve two notable pending lawsuits, both challenging Section 3 of DOMA and Title 38 in the U.S. Code for legally married same-sex couples in the U.S. The plaintiffs in the Massachusetts case addressed here argued on Wednesday in a court filing that the DOMA decision should resolve the case in their favor. It looks like they were right. The second suit, out of California, was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf a disabled veteran and her wife, who sought additional benefits available to heterosexual couples, and the right to be buried together in a veterans' cemetery.
Read the full motion below: