Any day now, the Pentagon is expected to extend new benefits to the spouses of gay service members. Although the Defense of Marriage Act—the law that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman for the purposes of the federal government—prevents the military from extending at least 93 statutory benefits to military members in same-sex marriages, there are a number of benefits that can be conferred even while the Defense of Marriage Act remains law. Since the full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” more than a year ago, military families headed by same-sex spouses have been barred from accessing these legally available benefit programs and support services.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in 2011, OutServe-SLDN, an organization representing actively serving gay military personnel, provided a comprehensive list of benefits that could be extended to military members in same-sex marriages independent of Supreme Court or congressional proceedings on the Defense of Marriage Act. The Pentagon should immediately revise its rules to ensure equitable access to military benefits for gay service members and their families to the extent possible under the law. Anything less than complete access to these benefits means that gay service members and their families will continue to face harmful and unnecessary discrimination by the U.S. military.
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