Even when gay couples are legally married under state law, for example, Section 3 of DOMA forbids the US government from treating such military couples as married.
And so they are not eligible for the kinds of benefits that heterosexual married couples receive in the military, including housing, medical care, and in the case of Morgan and others, survivor benefits should they die while serving their country.
DOMA Section 3 is the specific measure that will be reviewed by the Supreme Court in March.
Passed by Congress in 1996, the law declares that the word “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman and that the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is also a husband or wife.
As a result, under federal law, the benefits of marriage can go only to a person of the opposite sex, regardless of state law.
DOMA Section 3 has been declared unconstitutional by eight federal courts.
The Obama administration said last year that it would enforce the law, but would no longer defend it in court.
Should DOMA Section 3 be struck down by the Supreme Court, “My sense is that same-sex couples who are married under state law would be treated exactly the same as married couples are for the purposes of treatment on military installations and for benefits,” says Robert Tuttle, a law professor at George Washington University.
Currently, there is an “exhaustive list” of benefits that same-sex spouses do not receive, says Zeke Stokes, spokesman for OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy organization in Washington.