The Defense Department announced February 11 that domestic partners of homosexual personnel will qualify for some of the more mundane domestic partnership benefits available to married couples — although, for the time being, they will be denied the important ones such as medical and dental coverage, along with housing allowances. While congressional repeal of the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” ban allows homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman, still disqualifies their “significant others” from cashing in on lucrative benefits.
The new military same-sex partner benefits, which must be released no later than October 1, 2013, will give homosexual partners ID cards similar to existing cards issued to dependents of military personnel, and will give the bearers access to military commissaries, gymnasiums and health clubs, movie theaters, and various family support programs available on military bases. Under the benefits homosexual partners could also qualify to fly on military transports on a “space available” basis.
These new benefits are not fully equal to those received by spouses of heterosexual married service members — they cannot be unless the Supreme Court rules DOMA unconstitutional. “Additional benefits, such as health care and housing allowances, are by statute currently only available to spouses and therefore cannot be made available to same-sex domestic partners of service members under current law,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta apologetically explained in a memo released February 11 by the Pentagon. But, he added, in “the event that the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer applicable to the Department of Defense, it will be the policy of the department to construe the words ‘spouse’ and ‘marriage’ without regard to sexual orientation, and married couples, irrespective of sexual orientation, and their dependents will be granted full military benefits.”
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Photo of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: AP Images