SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Same-sex teaching couples are eligible after all for joint job transfers this year at Department of Defense schools, officials said Wednesday.

The policy is meant to protect couples from separation during reassignments and was already available to heterosexual married teachers.

An attempt to extend the benefit to gay teachers by the department’s Education Activity and two unions last month was initially rejected by the DOD.

The groups rewrote the policy Feb. 21 and it has since been approved to cover transfers this school year, said Michael Priser, union president of the Federal Education Association.

“The Pentagon had some concerns over the [original] agreement management had proposed,” he said.

A routine labor contract review by the DOD Civilian Personnel Management Service found that the agreement violated the 1993 Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

The policy no longer allows same-sex couples to present civil union certificates as proof of an exclusive relationship.

The revised policy was approved by the Defense Department on Feb. 25 after it was deemed to comply with the Defense of Marriage Act, according to Air Force Maj. April Cunningham, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

To apply for the benefit, couples must sign an affidavit saying they are in an “exclusive and committed relationship,” according to a copy of the new policy and affidavit form obtained by Stars and Stripes.

Those who are eligible could get higher priority for some jobs when DODEA is deciding how to fill openings in the coming weeks.

DODEA teachers are moved among districts around the world each year depending on requests, experience and school needs.

Job vacancies at military schools for the coming year were posted Feb. 26 by DODEA, and teachers were able to update their transfer choices until March 3.

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