Military Benefits Extended to Same-Sex Partners

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“The administration is doing what it can within the constraints that are in place, but the job is not done,” said Rep. Adam Smith, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. “I look forward to continuing to work with the administration and my colleagues in Congress to achieve full equality in the military.”

Others disagreed.

“We are on a slippery slope here. Why would the (Defense Department) extend benefits to same-sex partners and then deny cohabiting heterosexual couples the same benefits,” said Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The Department of Defense is essentially creating a new class of beneficiary that will increase costs and demand for limited resources that are currently available for military families, active and reserve forces, and retirees.”

Among the nearly two dozen benefits now available to same-sex partners, the identification card is likely the most important. Officials said the card will look largely the same as the service members’ but will have the designation “DP” — for domestic partner — and will list the types of benefits it allows on the back. Spouses and dependents of service members have similar cards, but those include designations for healthcare benefits.

Other benefits now available to same-sex partners and families include family programs, travel on military aircraft when available, child care, legal assistance, and if both are in the military they would be able to request, and be considered for, duty assignments in the same area.

Panetta’s decision comes as he nears the end of his tenure as Pentagon chief and on the heels of President Barack Obama’s broad call for equal rights for gays during his inaugural speech.

The repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military took effect in September 2011, and since then the Pentagon has been reviewing policies and procedures to see what military benefits can be opened to same sex partners without violating DOMA.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA in June, but advocacy groups have argued that there are a number of administrative steps the Pentagon could take to treat same-sex military couples more fairly.

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