DOD extends spousal-y benefits to gays, SecDef calls for DOMA repeal

The Pentagon announced today that it will extend some benefits to same-sex military couples, to the extent possible under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) restrictions that forbid the federal government from recognizing legally-performed gay marriage.

Per a memo from the Secretary of Defense, the new benefits, which will be provided to the non-military same-sex “domestic partner” of military employees, include:

mlitary-benefits same sex gay domestic partnersThe entire memo is below.

6 military vets handcuff selves to White House gates to protest Obama inaction on DADTThe change in policy does not address certain important benefits, such as health care  (insurance), certain housing benefits, potential for burial at Arlington Cemetery, and survivor benefits, among others.  Apparently, several of these, if not all of these, fall under a larger category of benefits, called Command-Sponsored Benefits, that DOD says it cannot yet provide, either because DOMA prohibits it, or because it’s a far more complicated matter to resolve, and will take time.

The benefits they can provide will go to same-sex domestic partners, not opposite sex domestic partners, since the opposite sex ones can simply get married.  Ironically, DOMA is forcing gay couples to have a lesser standard, a less threshold, as it were, for receiving some military spousal benefits.  OutServe/SLDN has a FAQ explaining the new benefits.

Another important point in all of this: The Secretary of Defense appears to be calling for the repeal of DOMA.

“One of the legal limitations to providing all benefits at this time is the Defense of Marriage Act, which is still the law of the land. There are certain benefits that can only be provided to spouses as defined by that law, which is now being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. While it will not change during my tenure as secretary of defense, I foresee a time when the law will allow the department to grant full benefits to service members and their dependents, irrespective of sexual orientation. Until then, the department will continue to comply with current law while doing all we can to take care of all soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and their families.

“While the implementation of additional benefits will require substantial policy revisions and training, it is my expectation that these benefits will be made available as expeditiously as possible. One of the great successes at the Department of Defense has been the implementation of DADT repeal. It has been highly professional and has strengthened our military community. I am confident in the military services’ ability to effectively implement these changes over the coming months.”

That’s important as it lends the credibility of the military behind the DOMA repeal effort. It also highlights the inequity faced by our troops, people whose lives are being risked for their country. It’s a powerful step, not unlike when the Defense Department finally got behind efforts to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

This is kind of fascinating really. What about an amendment to the DOD bill to repeal DOMA just for members of the US military?

While we obviously want DOMA repealed in its entirety, this is the kind of piecemeal move, repealing DOMA just for military members, that the religious right loves to do on issues like abortion. Slowly, slowly whittle away at something you don’t like by offering extremely popular pieces of legislation.

Here’s the full DOD memo:

Same SexBenefitsMemo by aravosis

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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13 Responses to “DOD extends spousal-y benefits to gays, SecDef calls for DOMA repeal”

  1. Ninong says:

    Late today, Friday, Feb. 22, the Obama Administration filed an amicus brief in support of Windsor arguing in favor of the repeal of Sec. 3 of DOMA.

    “Moral opposition to homosexuality, though it may reflect deeply held personal views, is not a legitimate policy objective that can justify unequal treatment of gay and lesbian people.”

  2. patb2009 says:

    Ending DADT was huge. Those who shed blood for their country have a right to demand it’s full franchise and privelige. Also Gay service members can marry at the chapel at Fort Benning, Campbell, Hood, and by having rights on base they aren’t allowed off base will do a lot to both highlight the discrimination and highlight the core truth of their relationships.

  3. Guest says:

    You are incorrect

  4. First, you’re apparently quoting SLDN’s on-crack false claims about “survivor benefits” when several are identifed as ALREADY being available in Panetta’s Attachment 1 [as they were in the November 2010 Pentagon report, and echoed in SLDN’s own 2011 “Freedom to Serve” guide]. But worse,and I’m sorry to have to say this, John, but it’s really disappointing to see you taking at their word excuses the Pentagon is now making about some of the things they “can’t” provide or still “need to study” EVEN THOUGH they are CONTRADICTING that same November 2010 Pentagon report. Before we explain which, we must thank Ft. Bragg Army wife Ashley Broadway, other members of the American Military Partners Association, and our allies in Congress led by Cong. Adam Schiff and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Jeanne Shaheen, and Barbara Boxer for succeeding in what PAID Gay, Inc.,organizations barely tried to do—forcing the Obama Administration to FINALLY stop holding hostage some benefits to LGB military couples. Sadly, if predictably—as they’re always eager to thank Massa for any pat on the head—SLDN and HRC have fallen all over themselves rushing to thank Secretary Panetta/Obama for what is a half loaf. Yes, it’s still a milestone, but it COULD and SHOULD have happened the same day the repeal bill was signed OVER TWO YEARS AGO because the Pentagon ADMITTED in that report released on NOVEMBER 30, 2010, that they had ALREADY identified what benefits could be extended. Is there ANY acceptable excuse for delaying IMPLEMENTATION of these benefits until the end of August or beginning of October? ABSOLUTELY NOT for the same reason. Is what Mr. Panetta is CLAIMING why access to VITAL “on-base housing” can’t be extended credible? ABSOLUTELY NOT because that 2010 Pentagon report SPECIFICALLY and UNEQUIVOCALLY revealed that, emphasis THEIRS:

    “For benefits such as [military family housing] the Department of Defense COULD legally
    direct the services to revise their regulations to extend coverage to service
    members’ same-sex partners. This could be accomplished in two ways: leave to
    the Service member the freedom to designate his or her ‘dependents’, ‘family
    members’, or similar term; or, revise these definitions to specifically mention
    a committed, same-sex relationship, and require some type of proof of that
    committed relationship. The latter is similar to the approach now being taken
    in Federal agencies for civilian employees.”

    I correctly predicted they would continue to ARBITRARILY deny this benefit
    because—their hollow, disingenuous, and outright false excuses aside—the obvious
    real reason is that they don’t want to deal with a possible uproar from Private
    and Mrs. Tater about the horror of the Tater tots having to live next door to
    ho-mo-sexuals! This is the same kind of cowardice and lack of leadership motivated
    by homophobia in their own top ranks and mostly IMAGINARY fears about the field
    that led them to drag out first even TALKING about repealing DADT and, then, DELAYING
    implementing it as long as possible. At a press conference today, a paid
    Pentagon shill drooled that they can’t include access to military family
    housing because it would be “violating the spirit” of DOMA. WHEN the
    hell did it become the DoD’s responsibility, let alone expertise, to define the
    “spirit” of any law?

    And, AGAIN, the focus on partnership benefits alone which, as important as they are,
    only affect the MINORITY of LGBs in the services obscures the fact that Secretary
    Panetta is STILL refusing to include all of them under the crucial protections
    against harassment and discrimination of the Military Equal Opportunity

    ATTENTION SLDN, HRC—and NGLTF and Lambda Legal: it’s
    YOUR move now—and because you had virtually NOTHING to do with even this partial
    step happening it’s far past time you started EARNING the money the gay
    community sends you. Mere LIP SERVICE to existing to FIGHT for us is no longer
    enough. Mr. Obama is clearly, inexcusably letting recalcitrant homophobes in the Pentagon continue to withhold some benefits they COULD ALSO LEGALLY EXTEND NOW. When are you going to stop being his lapdog and start barking?

  5. karmanot says:

    exactly! Have you noticed the plethra of Payday Loan commercials aimed at military families?

  6. S1AMER says:

    On the one hand, I totally agree: Health care benefits and housing allowances are the most important benefits, given the financial value involved.

    But I wouldn’t totally discount all the other stuff that Panetta announced today. Some of the benefits are worth at least a few dollars, and others are, as the ads say, “priceless” in improving quality of life for service couples and for getting some respect.

  7. FLL says:

    Since most spouses are non-military and stay in the States, I was thinking of health insurance and housing on a base in the U.S. as the most valuable benefits. You’re right that I was overlooking the situation where a spouse actually traveled to a foreign country with their spouse rather than staying stateside, or where both spouses were military.

  8. I just asked if they know. Hang on.

  9. Steven Jaeger says:

    Does anyone know if this will also be extended to retirees and / or former military who have VA benefits, etc or does that all fall under the purview of the DVA?

  10. BeccaM says:

    Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I agree, you’re right: Health insurance and housing benefits are a huge missing piece here. I’d also add pay equity with hetero married troops and survivor benefits to that.

    But some of the items on the list are huge all by themselves. Like for example when a servicemember was put on extended service in a foreign country, a same-sex spouse had to pay for everything for themselves and any dependent children. Moving expenses, travel, you name it, and once there, the non-military spouse had no on-base privileges at all (and until recently, had to pretend they didn’t even exist). Another is joint duty assignments. A married hetero couple could request to be assigned together, so they’d be in the same location; a same-sex married couple could be — and often were — split up, with no recourse.

    It’s not nothing, and a positive step…but I also concur with you that we’re four years overdue for the federal ENDA EO Obama promised to sign on his first day in office. And Obama needs to do far more than say he’s against DOMA — while saying ‘it’s up to the states to decide’.

  11. S1AMER says:

    Given how Americans view “the troops”, we should all be doing our utmost to point our to our fellow citizens that gay servicemembers are paid less because they have lower benefits than their straight brothers and sisters in uniform. It’s a good story to get across the unfairness of DOMA.

  12. FLL says:

    The benefits listed amount to precious little, of course, without health and housing benefits. Will DOJ actually be arguing the DOMA cases? It would only seem logical, seeing as the DOJ has been fighting DOMA in federal court cases since July 1, 2010. The proof of the pudding, then, is not in today’s memo, but in the DOJ arguments before the Supreme Court in the DOMA cases—and in an amicus brief against Prop 8, for that matter.

    Off-topic: In advance of tomorrow’s State of the Union Address, GetEQUAL protesters have gathered in front of the White House to demand an executive ENDA order.

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