The United States Navy now will provide military benefits to gay couples stationed in Japan after previously denying dependent status to same-sex spouses there, according to defense officials. The change came after U.S. and Japanese officials agreed to an interpretation of the status of forces agreement between the two nations, concluding that the term “spouses” applied to all individuals who are legally married to Department of Defense personnel.
The Navy announced its decision saying in a notice to personnel that it had added Japan to its list of overseas assignments for same-sex couples. The move came after the Washington Post published an article exposing how gay service members and their spouses often miss out on U.S. benefits while living abroad.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a directive in August ordering the military to treat all legally married couples equally for purposes of federal benefits, ensuring that the Pentagon complied with a Supreme Court ruling this year that overturned a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The American Military Partners Association, a gay-rights group, described the Navy’s decision as “welcome news” but noted that the armed forces still do not treat same-sex spouses equally at many duty stations abroad.
As of this writing the U.S. Navy has only made Japan and Guantanamo Bay available as overseas assignments for gay couples.