Military Matters

Feb 11, 2013 1:00 PM by Lucy Madison - CBS News

Pentagon announces extension of benefits to same-sex partners

Just weeks after lifting the ban on women in combat, the Defense Department announced yet another groundbreaking decision on Monday, making official the extension of some military benefits to same-sex partners previously denied them.

In a statement, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the military would no longer provide some benefits to heterosexual couples while denying them to same-sex partners in the military.

"Seventeen months ago, the United States military ended the policy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" Panetta said in a statement announcing the decision. "At the time of repeal, I committed to reviewing benefits that had not previously been available to same-sex partners based on existing law and policy. It is a matter of fundamental equity that we provide similar benefits to all of those men and women in uniform who serve their country."

Panetta noted that while the department "already provides a group of benefits that are member-designated," the Pentagon will now "extend additional benefits to same-sex partners of service members."

Panetta said he expected the new benefits to be made available "as expeditiously as possible," and reiterated his confidence in the military to implement the changes in the coming months.

Among the additional benefits that same-sex domestic partners will receive include commissary privileges, dependent ID cards, exchange (BX/PX) privileges, access to morale, welfare and recreation programs, access to youth and family center programs, joint duty assignments, and more.

The policy memo goes on to state:

Additional benefits, such as healthcare and housing allowances, are by statue currently only available to spouses and therefore cannot be made available to same-sex domestic partners of Service members under current law. In the event that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is no longer applicable to the Department of Defense, it will be the policy of hte Department to construe the words "spouse" and "marriage" without regard to sexual orientation, and married couples, irrespective of sexual orientation, and their dependents, will be granted full military benefits.

Click here to read the full memo (PDF).