Pentagon Announces Partner Benefits

As reported and anticipated, the Pentagon has announced that it will make some benefits, but not all, available to the married partners of gay soldiers. Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued the following statement on the change of policy:

“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.”

Among the new benefits that will be extended to same-sex spouses: participation in the group life insurance policy; survivor benefits; hospital visitation privileges; commissary and exchange privileges; legal assistance; and joint duty assignments. The directive also says that if DOMA is repealed or overturned, any and all additional benefits offered to spouses will apply regardless of gender. A big step in the right direction.

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  • magistramarla

    This is good to see. I’m especially glad to see survivor benefits included.

    I would like to see medical benefits for same-sex spouses and base housing privileges coming next.

  • A step in the right direction, yes. But….

    A major change in policy being made by an outgoing head is not necessarily something to celebrate. It will be his successor, not him, who will have to implement it, assuming that the replacement doesn’t just change it back: “Woah! DOMA is still the law, and our legal advisors have advised us….”

    I am not going to hold my breath until the Denial of Marriage Act has been struck down in its entirety.

  • fastlane

    Here we go again, more special rights for gays.

    (amusingly, when I first typoed that, it came out as gars…which is actually funnier).

  • lofgren

    Well all I can say is thank the Lord that the loved ones of the brave men and women willing to sacrifice their lives in defense of this country will not be treated with respect, dignity, or equality. As a religious person I know that honoring the men and women who have died in service by treating with basic decency the men and women they committed themselves to in life would be shameful in the eyes of the all-good, all-loving God. I will not rest until these people feel utterly insulted, rejected, and mistreated by the country they have sworn to defend until death. Only then will we be a truly holy nation once again.

  • jameshanley

    It will be his successor, not him, who will have to implement it, assuming that the replacement doesn’t just change it back:

    That would require Obama letting him do so. The Prez was pretty slow in ramping up his position on SSM, but he’s finally gotten there, and I think he’ll stick to it now.