Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta unveiled today the “extension of benefits to same-sex partners,” along with the prediction that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would eventually be struck down or repealed.
“Today, I am pleased to announce that after a thorough and deliberate review, the department will extend additional benefits to same-sex partners of service members,” Panetta said in a statement. The benefits extended cover a variety of areas, including life insurance beneficiary designations, active duty death benefits, and access to “morale, welfare, and recreation programs. Some benefits are contingent on the service-member identifying in writing his or her “domestic partner” — defined by the Defense Department as featuring, among other things financial co-dependence and the intention of remaining “indefinitely” in a committed relationship.
Panetta suggested that the Supreme Court will overturn DOMA, which Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. “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,” he said. “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.”
Late last month, Panetta announced that the Pentagon was opening combat roles to women.