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On 9th Anniversary of Obergefell v. Hodges: New Report Details National Security Cost if Supreme Court’s Marriage Equality Ruling is Reversed

Reconsideration of Obergefell Explored in Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Ruling; IAVA Study Finds Nearly 12,000 LGBTQ+ Service Members Could Depart at $950 Million Cost to Department of Defense

June 26, 2024

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a new, groundbreaking study, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans America (IAVA) found that a decision to reconsider the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges would have a disastrous impact on national security as most active-duty troops would then be serving in states that would lose the right to same-sex marriage. This could result in nearly 12,000 active–duty service members forgoing reenlistment in an age when our country is heavily reliant on an all-volunteer force.

The study found that if opponents of LGBTQ+ equality are successful at repealing Obergefell, a patchwork of existing state marriage bans would essentially snap back into place. While existing marriages would be recognized, states with existing bans would not be required to issue new marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

As of February 1, 2024, about 85 percent of active-duty military personnel live in states that have some kind of marriage equality ban still on the books. The study concludes that some active-duty service members would decline to re-enlist if marriage equality were repealed, and using demographic data from the Pentagon and drawing on prior experience during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, projects that it would cost at least $950.6 million to recruit and train new active-duty service members to replace those who left. 

“I’ve lived and served in the military before marriage equality. We can’t go back,” said Allison Jaslow,” Chief Executive Officer of IAVA. “Progress on LGBTQ+ rights – from the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to marriage equality – not only has benefited American society as a whole, but our national security. This report clearly defines that if we do go back, there will be enormous costs – to US military readiness and the American taxpayer. We should all work to make sure that never happens.”

IAVA’s report comes 20 years after the anniversary of the very first same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, and at a time when the military has struggled to meet its recruiting goals. The report found that repeal of marriage equality could drive some 11,760 active-duty LGBTQ+ service members to forgo re-enlistment  in the military, and also explores the impact on active-duty service members who are raising LGBTQ+ children.

View the full report here.

IAVA is the voice for the post-9/11 veteran generation. With over 425,000 veterans and allies nationwide, IAVA is the leader in non-partisan veteran advocacy and raising public awareness for the newest generation of veterans. We drive historic impacts for the veterans we represent and IAVA’s programs are second to none.


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