The Pentagon announced today that it will extend some benefits to same-sex military couples, to the extent possible under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) restrictions that forbid the federal government from recognizing legally-performed gay marriage.
Per a memo from the Secretary of Defense, the new benefits, which will be provided to the non-military same-sex “domestic partner” of military employees, include:
The change in policy does not address certain important benefits, such as health care (insurance), certain housing benefits, potential for burial at Arlington Cemetery, and survivor benefits, among others. Apparently, several of these, if not all of these, fall under a larger category of benefits, called Command-Sponsored Benefits, that DOD says it cannot yet provide, either because DOMA prohibits it, or because it’s a far more complicated matter to resolve, and will take time.
The benefits they can provide will go to same-sex domestic partners, not opposite sex domestic partners, since the opposite sex ones can simply get married. Ironically, DOMA is forcing gay couples to have a lesser standard, a less threshold, as it were, for receiving some military spousal benefits. OutServe/SLDN has a FAQ explaining the new benefits.
Another important point in all of this: The Secretary of Defense appears to be calling for the repeal of DOMA.
“One of the legal limitations to providing all benefits at this time is the Defense of Marriage Act, which is still the law of the land. There are certain benefits that can only be provided to spouses as defined by that law, which is now being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. 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. Until then, the department will continue to comply with current law while doing all we can to take care of all soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and their families.
“While the implementation of additional benefits will require substantial policy revisions and training, it is my expectation that these benefits will be made available as expeditiously as possible. One of the great successes at the Department of Defense has been the implementation of DADT repeal. It has been highly professional and has strengthened our military community. I am confident in the military services’ ability to effectively implement these changes over the coming months.”
That’s important as it lends the credibility of the military behind the DOMA repeal effort. It also highlights the inequity faced by our troops, people whose lives are being risked for their country. It’s a powerful step, not unlike when the Defense Department finally got behind efforts to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
This is kind of fascinating really. What about an amendment to the DOD bill to repeal DOMA just for members of the US military?
While we obviously want DOMA repealed in its entirety, this is the kind of piecemeal move, repealing DOMA just for military members, that the religious right loves to do on issues like abortion. Slowly, slowly whittle away at something you don’t like by offering extremely popular pieces of legislation.
Here’s the full DOD memo: