Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel was confirmed yesterday afternoon as Defense Secretary in a 58-41 vote by the U.S. Senate.  His nomination initially sparked criticism from the LGBT community because of inappropriate comments about openly-gay U.S. Ambassador Jim Hormel more than a decade ago and previous support of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.  Since then, Hagel has apologized for his comments about Ambassador Hormel and assured LGBT advocates and members of the Senate that he fully supports open service and would do everything possible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all service members, including lesbian and gay service members.

Only weeks ago, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a memorandum announcing  that the Department would be extending certain benefits to same-sex couples in the military by October 1.  According to the memorandum, the Department will soon provide same-sex spouses and domestic partners access to military IDs, legal services, joint duty assignments and other programs and services.  However, the memorandum stated that neither on-base housing nor burial benefits were granted because of "complex legal and policy challenges.”

HRC looks forward to working with Secretary Hagel to ensure that lesbian and gay service members and their families are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.  We urge him to expeditiously extend the benefits contained in Secretary Panetta’s memorandum and to resolve the complex legal and policy issues that were identified as obstacles to extending on-base housing and burial benefits to the same-sex spouses and domestic partners of lesbian and gay service members.

Filed under: Federal Advocacy, Military

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