Pentagon Gives More Military Benefits to Same-Sex Couples
Defense Secratary Leon E. Panetta signed an order that allows same-sex partners and their dependents access to numerous facilities and services on U.S. military bases. The nearly two dozen benefits give these partners access to child care, gyms, counseling programs, school buses and legal assitance, as well as identication cards that provide access to commissaries and other stores.
Panetta is giving military services until Oct. 1. to put the changes into effect, but recommends they should work to get it done by the end of August, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Same-sex couples now have the right for the first time to request assignment to the same post or duty station if both serve in the military, according to the Los Angeles Times. Other benefits enable partners to receive pay and other forms of aid if one is taken prisoner or is missing in action.
Army Veteran and executive director of the gay and lesbian military organization OutServe-SLDN Allyson Robinson praised Panetta for his actions:
“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. 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,” said Robinson.
Even though Panetta's initiative did not go as far as some advocates would have liked, it is still a move in the right direction.
Some benefits that would provide partners with base housing or burial at the Arlington National Cemetaery were not expanded and are still under review.
Pentagon officials say those types of benefits present legal and policy challenges that might stretch the military's already tight resources.
From the L.A. Times:
Officials said the cost of the expanded benefits would be negligible at a time when the Pentagon faces potentially deep budget cuts. They cited estimates that 5,600 same-sex couples are on active duty, 3,400 serve in the National Guard and Reserves, and 8,000 are retirees.
Additionally, Defense officials expressed fear that heterosexual couples and their families might be denied housing on some bases if same-sex couples were given the right to apply.
But many politicians, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), are pressing Pentagon officials to extend all benefits for same-sex couples, as well as take the necessary steps to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the military for offering other benefits to same-sex couples.
"If [the Pentagon] does not give them the same equal benefits they are not giving real meaning to what they are undertaking," said Schiff.
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