Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta plans to extend some benefits to same sex spouses of U.S. service members before leaving his position, the Washington Post reported.
Exactly what benefits will be extended is unclear. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, barring married gay and lesbian couples from receiving a number of protections and benefits.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and other House Democrats had previously urged Panetta to extend benefits to gay and lesbian military families. Though DOMA limits the options available to the Pentagon, Schiff said Panetta could still issue same sex spouses military identification cards, register same sex spouses in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), and allow same sex partners access to Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs.
“I’m encouraged to hear that the Department of Defense will be taking action to end discrimination against same sex partners and their families,” Schiff said Monday in a statement. “We need to make sure that all military families – including those with same sex partners serving at home or abroad – have access to the very best care, facilities and services possible.”
OutServe-SLDN, a network of LGBT military personnel, has called on Panetta to provide same sex spouses with every benefit available under current law.
“We are hopeful that he will not take half-measures here; for him to grant anything less than the full extent of benefits available under current law would be an anticlimactic end to an otherwise exemplary record on civil rights,” Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson said.
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