Good news: DOD expands benefits available to same-sex couples
I always like to start with good news, so here is some: On Monday, as one his last acts as Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta announced that the DOD is expanding military benefits available to gay and lesbian couples. The Pentagon hopes to offer the additional benefits by August 31.
The list of expanded benefits includes education, hospital visitation, casualty notification, travel, transportation, identification cards, family counseling, relocation assistance, recreation programs, access to base facilities, and more than a dozen more.
The list does not include health-care coverage for same-sex spouses or on-base housing privileges because of limitations imposed by the bigoted Defense of Marriage Act - but Pentagon officials are saying they are studying whether they can extend certain housing benefits without running afoul of the law, an effort that may prove unnecessary if the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA.
The Pentagon estimates that about 5,600 active-duty and roughly 3,400 National Guard servicemembers have same-sex spouses.
Panetta said "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."
Happily, Mr. Secretary, so can I.