Leon Panetta Hub

Pentagon to Begin Issuing Same-Sex Domestic Partner Benefits on September 1

The Pentagon will begin issueing same-sex domestic partner benefits on September 1, the Washington Times reports:

PanettaThe dependents’ ID cards will entitle partners to scores of benefits, as outlined by then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a February policy decision.

The ID card Web notice refers to same-sex domestic partners as “SSDPs.”

The benefits include education, survivor, commissary, travel, counseling and transportation, but not what some consider the armed forces’ premium perks — health care and housing allowances.

Mr. Panetta said the federal Defense of Marriage Act restricts those benefits to heterosexual couples, though the Pentagon has not ruled out offering them to homosexual couples at some point.

Still, the new benefits and special ID cards represent a victory for the gay rights movement in the wake of President Obama’s lifting the long-time ban on open homosexuals in the ranks.

An Army National Guard posting appeared to confirm the Washington Times report.

The Pentagon Extends Some Benefits to Same-Sex Couples: How Is That Legal?


PanettaOutgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (right) has ensured that at least some of the benefits given to military spouses will be meted out regardless of sexual orientation. The same-sex partners of our gay service members will soon be able to do family shopping at the significantly discounted commissary, the on-base market. They will also be eligible for military ID cards, which will give spouses access to bases, discounts, and a host of other perks. If both partners are military members, they can apply for joint deployment so that families are not needlessly ripped apart.

This will be done through a rule-making procedure over the next few months despite the continuing applicability of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA prevents all arms of the federal government from treating married same-sex couples as married, despite the fact that those marriages are recognized by nine states and the District of Columbia. DOMA, then, is the reason why Secretary Panetta cannot give same-sex families the real benefits -- health insurance, survivorship, living allowances, and so forth -- that are relied upon by every opposite-sex couple with at least one person in the military.

But, how can the Defense Department extend to same-sex couples at least some of the same benefits it gives to married opposite-sex couples when DOMA says that it cannot treat same-sex couples like married opposite-sex couples?

The answer is fourfold: First, they have to determine all the member-designated benefits extended to service members. Then, they have to determine which of those benefits are statutorily restricted to federally-defined "spouses" -- namely, the ones that DOMA prevents them from extending to same-sex couples. And now that the announcement has been made, the Defense Department and all branches of the military have to rewrite and revise a host of rules before any benefits can be extended. Finally, administrators have to be trained in the new rules.

Those are also the reasons why it will take the Pentagon until the middle of 2013 to even begin to implement this next stage of reforms in a post-Don't Ask, Don't Tell world. The pace at which the military has moved is a product of the unique features of government agency decision making, not any imagined half-heartedness on the part of the Administration to better the lives of gay service members and their partners.

I will detail just what benefits will be extended, what benefits DOMA still restricts, and where we go from here, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "The Pentagon Extends Some Benefits to Same-Sex Couples: How Is That Legal?" »

Rachel Maddow Blasts Boehner, House Republicans for Blocking Gay Military Benefits: VIDEO


Rachel Maddow looks at Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's recent announcement that benefits to nearly the extent allowed by current law will be extended to gay servicemembers and their families, and John Boehner and House Republicans' campaign to defend DOMA, effectively blocking full benefits.

Maddow also looks at the infuriating and heartbreaking story of Charlie Morgan, the lesbian soldier and activist who recently lost her battle with cancer, and Morgan's wife Karen, who will not be receiving any benefits because DOMA is still in place.

Says Maddow: "It is a sad story. For many people it is an enraging story. But it is not a finished story."


Continue reading "Rachel Maddow Blasts Boehner, House Republicans for Blocking Gay Military Benefits: VIDEO" »

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Extends Benefits to Gay and Lesbian Servicemembers, Families

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today extended benefits previously unavailable to gay and lesbian servicemembers and their families. The benefits are nearly the full extent permitted under current law.

PanettaPanetta's statement:

"Seventeen months ago, the United States military ended the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  We have implemented the repeal of that policy and made clear that discrimination based on sexual orientation has no place in the Department of Defense.

"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.  The department already provides a group of benefits that are member-designated.  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.  

"Taking care of our service members and honoring the sacrifices of all military families are two core values of this nation.  Extending these benefits is an appropriate next step under current law to ensure that all service members receive equal support for what they do to protect this nation.

"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."

View a copy of Panetta's MEMO, AFTER THE JUMP...

Outserve-SLDN reacted to the announcement:

Though Panetta’s announcement did not include a number of important items that could have been granted - including on-base housing, burial rights at national cemeteries and some overseas travel for spouses, which remain under consideration - Robinson called the package “substantive” and acknowledged that the Pentagon has done almost as much as it can with the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still on the books.

“Secretary Panetta’s decision today answers the call President Obama issued in his inaugural address to complete our nation's journey toward equality, acknowledging the equal service and equal sacrifice of our gay and lesbian service members and their families. We thank him for getting us a few steps closer to full equality - steps that will substantively improve the quality of life of gay and lesbian military families,” said Robinson.

Continue reading "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Extends Benefits to Gay and Lesbian Servicemembers, Families" »

Pentagon to Extend New Benefits to Spouses of Gay Personnel

The Pentagon is set to announce it is extending new benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian personnel, the Washington Post reports:

PanettaThe military expects to announce the decision this week.

Officials at the Pentagon would not say which new benefits the department has determined it can extend to same-sex couples without violating the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that bars the federal government from legally recognizing same-sex unions. Gay rights advocates have called for benefits including housing privileges, access to base recreational facilities and joint duty assignments for couples in the military.

Legal experts say, however, that the Pentagon will be unable to extend more than 100 benefits while the Defense of Marriage Act remains in place.

The new guidelines will be departing Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta’s final imprint on the armed forces.

LGBT Groups And Neo-Cons Both Angry Over Potential Hagel Nomination


This doesn't happen very often: progressive LGBT groups and neo-conservatives actually agree on something, namely that former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel should not be President Obama's pick for Defense Secretary. Though they have decidedly different reasons.

For equality-minded activists, Hagel's objectionable for his anti-gay voting record and, more to the point, comments he made in 1998, when openly gay James Hormel was being considered as ambassador to Luxembourg.

"They are representing America," Hagel said of ambassadors. "They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay - openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel - to do an effective job." Hormel did eventually get the job.

HRC called Hagel's comments "unacceptable," according to BuzzFeed, while Victory Fund's Denis Dison quipped, "Today openly LGBT Americans serve throughout the three branches of the federal government, and at very high levels; those who are still openly, aggressively anti-gay in 2012 probably won't be able to function very well in Washington."

Meanwhile, over on the right, the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol is trying to portray Hagel as "anti-Israel." "Anti-Israel propagandists are thrilled," Kristol wrote. "Hagel certainly does have anti-Israel, pro-appeasement-of-Iran bona fides. While still a senator, Hagel said that 'a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.'"

Writing on the right's attacks on Hagel, Robert Wright at the Atlantic notes, "[The magazine] is employing what you might call a two-tiered strategy: the low road and the lower road."

For its part, and its concerns about Hagel's past anti-gay comments, HRC says hope the former senator explains himself. "We look forward to hearing from Senator Hagel on these issues should he be nominated," said spokesperson Michael Cole-Schwartz.


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