Could it be that, of all places, the military will be at the forefront of making marriage equality a societal norm? It’s beginning to look that way. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced that the Pentagon will begin treating the spouses of same-sex couples the same way it treats any other spouses “as soon as possible.”
“The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses — regardless of sexual orientation — as soon as possible,” Hagel said in a statement after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA. “That is now the law, and it is the right thing to do. Every person who serves our nation in uniform stepped forward with courage and commitment. All that matters is their patriotism, their willingness to serve their country, and their qualifications to do so. Today’s ruling helps ensure that all men and women who serve this country can be treated fairly and equally, with the full dignity and respect they so richly deserve.”
The military will begin issuing spouse cards to married same-sex couples within twelve weeks. The cards will provide spouses with health and housing benefits. Same-sex spouses will also be allowed to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
There are still questions remaining, including accommodations for spouses in countries where homosexuality is against the law. But with 1.4 million service members who are trained to follow orders, the Pentagon’s swift movement promises to be a huge social change. Given that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed just two years ago, the speed at which that change is happening is truly remarkable.
And, finally, let’s put to rest any reservations about Chuck Hagel. His past was less than glorious when it came to gay issues, but he is now moving at full speed to execute one of the biggest changes for the better in the military ever.