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Obama grants military spouses residency rights

Military spouses now have the right to retain residency for voting and tax purposes after President Obama signed the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act into public law Nov. 11.

The president signed the 2003 Servicemembers Civil Relief Act amendment to allow a service member’s spouse to keep their home-state residency when accompanying their military husband or wife under orders.

“This act, among other things, would provide that when a service member leaves his or her home state in accord with military orders, the service member’s spouse may retain residency in his or her home state for voting and tax purposes, after relocating from that state to accompany the service member,” said Obama in a Nov. 11 statement from the White House.

The public law allows a spouse the same right as service members to claim a state of legal residence and maintain that home of record throughout their military spouse’s career. Common benefits include voting, keeping a driver’s license and paying taxes in their home of record.

“The most important aspect of this law is that it prevents a military spouse from losing residency,” said Capt. James M. Moorhead, legal assistance attorney, staff judge advocate, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. “However, it does not grant or give residency to the state ordered to.”

The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act was first sponsored in 2008 by U.S. Rep. John Carter from Texas’s 31st congressional district, who was hoping to allow spouses the same rights as their service members.

“It’s not fair that the same rules were not extended toward our military spouses in the past,” said Carter in May 2008, during a visit to Fort Hood, Texas. “When you marry a soldier, you are volunteering for service for the United States of America.”

When the military orders service members to move, spouses who move with them often have to pay taxes in a new state or locality and lose the right to vote in the place considered to be home, said the president. This legislation will alleviate these and other burdens on our military families.

“As Congress has recognized, and as the legislative history reflects, this legislation is an important means of maintaining the morale and readiness of our Armed Forces and significantly enhances the ability of our military to effectively recruit and retain these highly valued service personnel,” said Obama in his closing remarks.

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