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Pentagon Extends Benefits To Same-Sex Partners

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In 2011, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandra Schwartz, and her daughter Destiny Bautista, were living in San Diego, Calif., with Schwartz's then-fiance, U.S. Navy Counselor 1st Class Luz Bautista, who was pregnant at the time. Then, same-sex partners weren't able to get the benefits that heterosexual couples could.

Kudos to Leon Panetta for making the changes that needed to be made. Our LGBT servicemembers deserve the same recognition and rights as their counterparts. With the repeal of DADT, we see military policy reflect the values that we hold as a society while holding true to the mantra that no one is left behind – not on the battlefield and not by exclusion.

We hold these truths to be self-evident but they were lost on those who did not understand what it meant to be gay, lesbian, or transgender. The policies did not echo the values like equality but social norms have evolved to be more inclusive and transparent. Valiant advocates like Lt. Choi have brought this injustice to light and the fight has borne good fruit as our brothers- and sisters-in-arms can openly serve and not have their personal life serve as a litmus test for what it means to serve. But those policies, like DADT, have faded into history as a footnote of a mistake that took far too long to correct. Now we look to correct the mistake known as the Defense of Marriage Act that only serves as a testament to ignorance.

NPR – Commissary privileges, family center programs, dependent I.D. cards, joint duty assignments and space-available travel on military aircraft are among the military benefits the Pentagon will now extend to same-sex partners, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.

His announcement follows the word that broke last week about the Defense Department’s plans to extend many benefits to same-sex partners and their dependents since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been discontinued.

“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 said.
Some benefits cannot, because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, be extended to same-sex partners. But Panetta’s announcement says that these benefits will be extended to such partners:

— Dependent I.D. cards

— Commissary privileges

— Exchange privileges

— Morale, welfare and recreation programs

— Surveys of military familes

— Quadrennial quality of life review

— Emergency leave

— Emergency leave of absence

— Youth sponsorship program

— Youth programs

— Family center programs

— Sexual assault counseling program

— Joint duty assignments

— Exemption from hostile-fire areas

— Transportation to and from certain places of employment and on military installations

— Transportation to and from primary and secondary school for minor dependents

— Authority of service secretary to transport remains of a dependent

— Disability and death compensation: dependents of members held as captives

— Payments to missing persons

— Space-available travel on DoD aircraft

— Child care

— Legal assistance

USA Today – In a recent interview with USA TODAY, Panetta said he did not expect resistance to the extension of benefits once troops were educated about the issue.

“When it comes to benefits, we’ve got to lay some of the same groundwork,” Panetta said in the interview. “You just have got to educate people. People who are serving in the military and putting their lives on the line deserve some of the benefits that go with that. We’ve just got to be able to tie those two together in a way that the military understands and accepts.”

The military has 60 days to determine how to extend the benefits, according to Panetta’s memo.

Source: NPR, February 11, 2013, by Mark Memmott; USA Today, February 11, 2013, by Tom Vanden Brook

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