Department of Defense Extends Some Benefits to Same-Sex Partners
On Monday, the Department of Defense expanded access to certain benefits for same-sex partners of military personnel, but stopped short of providing access to medical and dental coverage, theÂ New York TimesÂ reports.
Details of Expanded Benefits
The extension of full health and dental benefits would require the repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman (Shanker,Â New York Times, 2/11).
Though the law does not bar states from recognizing same-sex marriages, it also does not require that states recognize marriages from other states -- effectively making many couples ineligible for federal health benefits (Rosen, McClatchy Newspapers/Miami Herald, 2/11).Â
In a statementÂ Monday, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, "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." He noted that DOMA forbids the extension of full military benefits, but added, "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" (Lochhead,Â San Francisco Chronicle, 2/11).
The Supreme Court will decide this summer whether DOMA is constitutional.
Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights endorsed the announcement, but noted that more steps remain to ensure equality for all service members.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, "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" (New York Times, 2/11).
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also lauded the announcement, saying, "Just as no individual should be forced to hide who they love to serve their country, no individual should be deprived of the benefits they have earned simply because of who they married" (LondoÃ±o/Whitlock,Â Washington Post, 2/11).
However, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, accused President Obama of "eroding our military's apolitical stance and forcing conformity onto the rest of society by pushing his liberal social agenda through the [DOD]" (Cloud,Â Los Angeles Times, 2/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.