Panetta said, “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 Pentagon announced Monday that it has decided to extend certain benefits to the same-sex partners of military personnel. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta released a statement, via the White House, explaining that although there are still some benefits that are legally prohibited to same-sex partners due to the Defense of Marriage Act, the military will begin to provide those benefits which are allowed. He said,
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.
Although not all military benefits afforded to heterosexual couples will be available immediately, this is a wonderful step in the right direction. This announcement comes shortly after several West Point Cadets took same-sex dates to their winter formals, and several spouses’ clubs affiliated with military bases around the nation began allowing same-sex partners of military personnel to become members.
You can read the entire memorandum here.
Photo: US Army Africa/Flickr