Photo Credit: frontpagemag.comThe progressive revamping of the military has gotten another boost. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has offered an array of new benefits to the same-sex partners of service members, both active and retired, whether they are married or not. They include child care services, member-designated hospital visits, and the issuance of military ID cards to same-sex partners, granting them access to on-base commissaries, movie theaters and gyms. “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,” said Panetta in a statement announcing the development. Yet all service members are not receiving equal support: unmarried heterosexual partners and their families are not getting these benefits.
All the new benefits were previously denied by the Pentagon. The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) mostly prohibits more than 85 other benefits now granted to heterosexual military spouses and their children from being given to same-sex partners. These include medical care, housing allowances, death benefits and burial at Arlington National Cemetery. They will remain prohibited because making such changes “presents complex legal and policy challenges due to their nexus to statutorily-prohibited benefits and due to ongoing reviews about how best to provide scarce resources,” Panetta explained.
Such policy challenges are reflected by the reality that same-sex couples are not legally prohibited from qualifying for on-base housing. But Pentagon officials were concerned that following the “spirit of the law” outlined in DOMA required further review. Those concerns centered around fairness and the reaction of other military members, including married couples who could be bumped from housing lists by same-sex couples.
In a statement issued Monday decrying this development, the Center for Military Readiness (CMR) noted that by “equating same-sex domestic partnerships with natural marriage, the lame-duck Secretary of Defense has created a new inequity. Unmarried same-sex couples signing Secretary Panetta’s on-paper-only ‘Declaration of Domestic Partnership’ will have special rights, status, and benefits that are denied to opposite-sex domestic partners and their dependents.”
CMR was equally upset with the incrementalist nature of the move, and where it will inevitably lead. “Eventual correction of this inequity in the name of ‘consistency,’ and eventual extension of medical, housing and other costly benefits on an incremental basis, will rob even more funds from limited defense budget accounts that are devoted to traditional family support.”
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