WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, complained Thursday that the Defense Department is planning to give a benefit to same-sex couples seeking to marry that is not available to other couples.
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, questioned whether the department had the legal authority to grant uncharged leave to same-sex couples who must travel to another jurisdiction to get married. A Pentagon spokesman said Thursday the new policy would “help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced last week changes to military benefits programs to comply with the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a law that prevented same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits of all types.
Hagel announced a new policy that will allow same-sex couples in the United States to take up to seven days of leave that won't be charged against their regular leave time if they must travel more than 100 miles to get married in another jurisdiction. Same-sex marriage is legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
Same-sex couples serving abroad would get 10 days of uncharged leave.
In a letter to Hagel, Inhofe said he was disappointed and concerned with the policy changes announced by Hagel, “especially the intent to extend special uncharged leave benefits to same-sex partners and not to all military couples. Further, I am unaware of any legal authority to grant uncharged leave to couples seeking to be married.”
“I firmly support the Department of Defense's stated commitment to ensuring that all men and women who serve our country and their families should be treated fairly and equally,” Inhofe said.