Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today opened new benefits to same-sex military couples, granting them access to services such as childcare and access to commissaries.
The new benefits come some 17 months since the repeal of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. That change enabled gay military members to serve openly in the ranks, but did not open to them various benefits the heterosexual couples enjoy at military installations all over the world.
“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,” Panetta said in announcing the new benefits.
The Pentagon cannot grant all of the benefits it provides to heterosexual couples to same sex couples while the Defense of Marriage Act remains in effect. Benefits that are available only to married couples include health insurance and housing allowances.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, pledged to submit a bill that would grant same-sex couples the rest of the benefits that remain unavailable to them. He’s the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
“The administration is doing what it can within the constraints that are in place, but the job is not done,” he said. Smith submitted the same bill last summer, but it did not pass.
Calls to open more benefits to same sex couples gained urgency recently when the wife of a lesbian officer at Fort Bragg was denied entry into an-post spouse’s organization, highlighting the disparity in benefits between gay and heterosexual couples.