HRC Blog

Pentagon Extends Additional Benefits to Gay and Lesbian Service Members and Their Families

Post submitted by Dan Rafter, Former HRC Associate Director of Communications

HRC is praising the Pentagon's announcement that it would extend a slate of equal benefits to lesbian and gay service members and their families over the coming months. Believed to be the final policy move of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's tenure, this announcement guarantees some, but not all, of the benefits the Pentagon currently provides to the families of straight military personnel. Though this is a meaningful step forward, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still prevents gay and lesbian military families from enjoying full equality.

HRC President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:

"Today, the Pentagon took a historic step forward toward righting the wrong of inequality in our armed forces, but there is still more work to be done. Gay and lesbian service members and their families make sacrifices every day, and this country owes them every measure of support we can provide. Since the repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,’ the Obama administration has shown true leadership on this issue. But even today, the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act makes inequality for gay and lesbian military families a legal requirement.

It's time to right this wrong. When the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of DOMA in the coming weeks, they should take note of the real harm this law inflicts every day. The Court should reflect on the sacrifice made by Americans like Staff Sergeant Tracy Johnson, whose wife was killed in action late last year, or the family of Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who succumbed to cancer earlier this week. In both cases, DOMA barred specific benefits that could soften the tragic blow of the loss of a loved one. The Court should strike down this hateful law once and for all so that this country can finally guarantee full equality for all who serve."

In announcing the changes, Defense Secretary Leon Penetta affirmed that discrimination based on sexual orientation had no place in the military:

"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."

The DOD's full memorandum can be read at http://www.defense.gov/news/Same-SexBenefitsMemo.pdf

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