Pentagon Extends New Benefits To Same-Sex Couples

marinesDefense Secretary Leon Panetta announced today that the Pentagon would extend benefits previously unavailable to same-sex couples and their families.

Among these benefits, OutServe-SLDN reports, are hospital visitation rights, child care, ID cards, legal assistance and disability and death compensation for soldiers held as captives. The Defense of Marriage Act, however, restricts access to other benefits including health care, burial rights at national cemeteries, housing and survivors’ benefits.

Panetta said in a statement:

Seventeen months ago, the United States military ended the policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’  We have implemented the repeal of that policy and made clear that discrimination based on sexual orientation has no place in the Department of Defense.

At the time of repeal, I committed to reviewing benefits that had not previously been available to same-sex partners based on existing law and policy.  It is a matter of fundamental equity that we provide similar benefits to all of those men and women in uniform who serve their country.  The department already provides a group of benefits that are member-designated.  Today, I am pleased to announce that after a thorough and deliberate review, the department will extend additional benefits to same-sex partners of service members.

Taking care of our service members and honoring the sacrifices of all military families are two core values of this nation.  Extending these benefits is an appropriate next step under current law to ensure that all service members receive equal support for what they do to protect this nation.

One of the legal limitations to providing all benefits at this time is the Defense of Marriage Act, which is still the law of the land.  There are certain benefits that can only be provided to spouses as defined by that law, which is now being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court.  While it will not change during my tenure as secretary of defense, I foresee a time when the law will allow the department to grant full benefits to service members and their dependents, irrespective of sexual orientation.  Until then, the department will continue to comply with current law while doing all we can to take care of all soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and their families.

While the implementation of additional benefits will require substantial policy revisions and training, it is my expectation that these benefits will be made available as expeditiously as possible.  One of the great successes at the Department of Defense has been the implementation of DADT repeal.  It has been highly professional and has strengthened our military community.  I am confident in the military services’ ability to effectively implement these changes over the coming months.

LGBT advocacy groups praised Panetta’s decision, including OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, who said that the Pentagon has done almost as much as it could with DOMA still in place.

“Secretary Panetta’s decision today answers the call President Obama issued in his inaugural address to complete our nation’s journey toward equality, acknowledging the equal service and equal sacrifice of our gay and lesbian service members and their families,” Robinson said. “We thank him for getting us a few steps closer to full equality – steps that will substantively improve the quality of life of gay and lesbian military families.”

Robinson also acknowledged the death of activist and out soldier Charlie Morgan, who passed away this weekend after a long battle with breast cancer.

“As encouraging as this step is for our military families, the passing yesterday of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan and the needs of her family – needs in danger of going largely unmet because of the Defense of Marriage Act – reminds us of how far we still are from true equality,” Robinson said.

According to Panetta, the Pentagon will attempt to extend the new benefits to service members by August 31 and no later than October 1, but OutServe will work for a quicker resolution.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is expected to tackle DOMA next month and Robinson hopes the Pentagon’s actions will have a positive impact.

“[T]he harm DOMA inflicts on gay and lesbian service members and their families, and on the strength of our military, could not be clearer,” she said. “I hope our Supreme Court Justices are watching as these events unfold, and that they see that striking down DOMA is the only way this unjust and untenable situation can be rectified.”

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  • Chad Hunt

    Yeah! About time … Thank You, to all of those who have served our country.

  • Ron Jackson

    Nice. Progress is nice. The civilized will drag the neanderthals into the 21st century.

  • Dakotahgeo

    DOMAs days are numbered, either by repeal of the full Congress, demise by the SCOTUS ruling, or by Executive Order. It’s about time. Let the right wing conservatives’ whining begin!

  • Michael

    HOWEVER MUCH THIS IS ONE STEP FORWARD & TWO STEPS BACK, we must thank Ft. Bragg Army wife Ashley Broadway, other members of the American Military Partners Association, and our allies in Congress led by Cong. Adam Schiff and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Jeanne Shaheen, and Barbara Boxer for succeeding in what PAID Gay, Inc., organizations barely tried to do—forcing the Obama Administration to FINALLY stop holding hostage some benefits to LGB military couples. Sadly, if predictably—as they’re always eager to thank Massa for any pat on the head—SLDN and HRC have fallen all over themselves rushing to thank Secretary Panetta/Commander-in-Chief Obama for what is a half loaf. Yes, it’s still a milestone, but it COULD and SHOULD have happened the same day the repeal bill was signed OVER TWO YEARS AGO because the Pentagon ADMITTED in their report released on NOVEMBER 30, 2010, that they had ALREADY identified what benefits could be extended. Is there ANY acceptable excuse for delaying IMPLEMENTATION of these benefits until the end of August or beginning of October? ABSOLUTELY NOT for the same reason. Is what Mr. Panetta is CLAIMING why access to VITAL “on-base housing” can’t be extended credible? ABSOLUTELY NOT because that 2010 Pentagon report SPECIFICALLY and UNEQUIVOCALLY revealed that, emphasis THEIRS:

    “For benefits such as [military family housing] the Department of Defense COULD legally direct the services to revise their regulations to extend coverage to service members’ same-sex partners. This could be accomplished in two ways: leave to the Service member the freedom to designate his or her ‘dependents’, ‘family members’, or similar term; or, revise these definitions to specifically mention a committed, same-sex relationship, and require some type of proof of that committed relationship. The latter is similar to the approach now being taken in Federal agencies for civilian employees.”

    I correctly predicted they would continue to ARBITRARILY deny this benefit because—their hollow, disingenuous, and outright false excuses aside—the obvious real reason is that they don’t want to deal with a possible uproar from Private and Mrs. Tater about the horror of the Tater tots having to live next door to ho-mo-sexuals! This is the same kind of cowardice and lack of leadership motivated by homophobia in their own top ranks and mostly IMAGINARY fears about the field that led them to drag out first even TALKING about repealing DADT and, then, DELAYING implementing it as long as possible. At a press conference today, a paid Pentagon shill drooled that they can’t include access to military family housing because it would be “violating the spirit” of DOMA. WHEN the hell did it become the DoD’s responsibility, let alone expertise, to define the “spirit” of any law?

    And, AGAIN, the focus on partnership benefits alone which, as important as they are, only affect the MINORITY of LGBs in the services obscures the fact that Secretary Panetta is STILL refusing to include all of them under the crucial protections against harassment and discrimination of the Military Equal Opportunity Program.

    ATTENTION SLDN, HRC—and NGLTF and Lambda Legal: it’s YOUR move now—and because you had virtually NOTHING to do with even this partial step happening it’s far past time you started EARNING the money the gay community sends you. Mere LIP SERVICE to existing to FIGHT for us is no longer enough.




    You two guys look, so sweet and healthy M`m M`m I wish it was that way when I was in the military. kis kis kis.

  • Harley

    I’m waiting for the log cabins’s and GOProud groups to come out and say they did all this for us. How because of supporting anti-gay repugnant-clans who would pass “kill the gays” bills in this country as well as Uganda got the military to open up its arms to ALL service people. Come on guys. Take all the credit where no credit is due. Waiting………………

  • Chad Hunt

    I just love that picture. I think it should inspire some movie studio to redo, “An Officer and a Gentleman”, and no, not some tacky porn remake.

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