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Frequently Asked Questions
On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court determined certain parts of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996 were unconstitutional. As a result of this decision, the Federal Government now recognizes same-sex marriages which are legally performed under state law. On September 5, 2013, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued implementing guidance extending Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) coverage to same-sex spouses of military members and retirees. In short, same-sex marriages that are valid in the state where performed will be recognized as valid for SBP purposes. The implementing guidance does not apply to civil unions or domestic partnerships. It is the responsibility of the retiree to provide documentation of existence of valid marriage under applicable state law. The guidance issued at that time is still applicable to those retirees.
On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court determined that states are required to issue marriage licenses to two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state. Consequently, a valid marriage certificate issued by any state on or after June 26, 2015 will be recognized as valid for SBP purposes.
The DoD guidance generally provides that effective June 26, 2013, any person who is married to a same-sex partner may participate in the SBP in the same manner as any other married person. This includes the requirement for spousal concurrence for certain elections. The DoD guidance can be read in full here. The below is not a full restatement of the guidance, and is not intended to replace the guidance:
Note: Any person eligible to participate (either already retired and receiving retired pay or in receipt of a 20-year letter and awaiting pay), who was not married at the time they become eligible to participate and who marries after June 26, 2015, has one year from the date of the marriage to enter a spousal election for SBP purposes.