WASHINGTON (AP) - The military is poised to extend some benefits to
the same-sex partners of service members, U.S. officials said Tuesday,
about 16 months after the Pentagon repealed its ban on openly gay
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not made a final
decision on which benefits will be included, the officials said, but the
Pentagon is likely to allow same-sex partners to have access to the
on-base commissary and other military subsidized stores, as well as some
health and welfare programs.
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must walk a fine, legal line. While there has been increased pressure
on the Pentagon to extend some benefits to same-sex partners, defense
officials must be careful not to violate the 1996 Defense of Marriage
Act, or DOMA. The federal law forbids the federal government from
recognizing any marriage other than those between a man and a woman.
announcement is expected to come in the next several days. Officials
discussed the plan on the condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to publicly discuss internal Pentagon deliberations.
press secretary George Little declined to comment. Other officials made
it clear that there are still last-minute legal discussions going on to
determine the details.
Officials said the military will likely
require that some type of document be signed to designate the military
member's partner as a legitimate recipient of the benefits.
decision comes as he nears the end of his tenure as Pentagon chief and
just days after a woman married to a female Army officer at Fort Bragg
was invited to become a full member of the North Carolina base's
officers' spouses club after initially being denied. The Marine Corps
has also said that any spouses clubs operating on its bases must admit
Last year, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state,
the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, introduced
legislation that would extend same-sex benefits to spouses of veterans
and service members. He argued that with gays serving openly in the
military, their spouses should receive the same benefits.
his measure, the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs Department
would have to recognize any marriage that has been recognized by a
state, the District of Columbia, commonwealths or territories. Nine
states and the District of Columbia now allow gay and lesbian couples to
The repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the
military took effect in September 2011, and since then the Pentagon has
been reviewing policies and procedures to see what military benefits can
be opened to same sex partners without violating DOMA.
Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA in
June, but advocacy groups have argued that there are a number of steps
the Pentagon could take to treat same-sex military couples more fairly.