Pentagon to Extend Some Spousal Benefits to Same-Sex Couples

Pentagon to Extend Some Spousal Benefits to Same-Sex Couples

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected to announce this week that the Pentagon will extend some spousal benefits to same-sex couples. 

“The department is conducting a deliberative and comprehensive review of the possibility of extending eligibility for benefits, when legally permitted, to same-sex domestic partners,” Pentagon spokeswoman Leslie Hull-Ryde said.

Some of these benefits may include “spousal housing privileges, access to base recreational facilities, and joint duty assignments for homosexual couples in the military.”

As The Hill notes, it is not clear what benefits Panetta will announce because the Pentagon is still bound by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which “defines marriage as the union of one man and woman for federal purposes, including insurance and Social Security benefits and tax breaks.”

Gay activists have said benefits like giving families of gay service members access to military identification cards and support programs could be legal, even with the Defense of Marriage Act still on the books. 

Chuck Hagel, whom President Barack Obama has nominated to be the next Secretary of Defense, has said he plans to do “everything possible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members.”