Should Same Sex Couples Receive Military Benefits?

On Monday the Pentagon expanded some military benefits to same sex partners of military personnel, but stopped short of extending full benefits. They will now have access to military identification cards, military commissaries, and various family support programs on bases and posts.

Making the announcement his last week in office, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that discrimination based on sexual orientation has no place in the Department of Defense.  In 2010, the department ended the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy restricting gays from openly serving in the military.

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 … 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. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on gay marriage.]

The Defense Department can’t extend full benefits to same sex partners while the Defense of Marriage Act stands, because the law restricts the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages. The Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of the law, and is expected to issue a ruling this summer. Panetta said he expects that should the law be struck down, full military benefits will be extended to gay couples.

Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the extension of benefits a “slippery slope” and an attempt by President Barack Obama to “force conformity onto the rest of society by pushing his liberal social agenda through the Department of Defense.”

In a weak attempt to not violate the Defense of Marriage Act, the Administration is using a play on words by saying ‘same sex domestic partners’ can have access to benefits instead of ‘spouses’ … President Obama continues to expand the government’s financial obligations to support his liberal social agenda during a time when this Administration has imposed drastic budget cuts to our military readiness and national security.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

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