Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced today that he was extending what is being called a substantive package of benefits for the spouses of LGB service members. The announced package does not extend fully to all rights including burial rights at national cemeteries and certain oversees travel. Those remain under consideration. Some of the rights, unfortunately, will not be able to be granted until the Defense of Marriage Act is removed from the law books.
OutServe-SLDN Executive Director and Army Veteran Allyson Robinson stated “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.”
OS-SLDN has been pushing the Defense Department to issue these benefits for more than two years.
According to OS-SLDN “The package of recognition, support, and benefits – which includes the issuance of military identification cards, access to family support initiatives, and joint duty assignments – does not address the larger issues of health care, housing, and survivors’ benefits restricted by DOMA and other federal statutes. The Supreme Court is set to consider DOMA next month, and is expected to issue a ruling later this year.”
Robinson stated “As encouraging as this step is for our military families, the passing yesterday of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan and the needs of her family – needs in danger of going largely unmet because of the Defense of Marriage Act – reminds us of how far we still are from true equality.” CW2 Morgan passed away this past weekend after a two year battle with breast cancer. Her death leaves her wife, Karen, and her daughter, Casey Elena, without the benefits that a heterosexual couple in a similar situation would enjoy.
Robinson also stated “In light of Charlie Morgan’s untimely passing and the Pentagon’s long-awaited move toward equal treatment, the harm DOMA inflicts on gay and lesbian service members and their families, and on the strength of our military, could not be clearer. I hope our Supreme Court Justices are watching as these events unfold, and that they see that striking down DOMA is the only way this unjust and untenable situation can be rectified. The forces that defend ‘liberty and justice for all’ must be freed to embody that principle as well, and our nation must be allowed to offer our LGBT troops and their families the respect and support that their sacrifice is due.”
Former Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins, the Executive Director of Knights Out, praised the announcement, and stated “By providing supports like ID cards, base access, and hospital visitation for gay partners, the Department of Defense has taken a strong intermediate step toward equality for all military families. This is a significant step forward, and will make life easier for the gays and lesbians who serve our country by supporting their military spouses. However, it’s clear that military leaders are hampered in their goal of treating all soldiers equally by the cruel and unfair Defense of Marriage Act. We look forward to the day that DOMA is overturned and we can treat all military families with the respect they deserve for their sacrifices.”
Hopkins also acknowledged the passing of Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who lost her battle with cancer on Sunday.
“Many of us were lucky enough to know Charlie and Karen, and we are grieving the loss of a remarkable soldier,” Hopkins remarked. “As former, current, and future officers we have a responsibility to look out for our soldiers always. Charlie’s passing reminds us of that solemn responsibility, and we will redouble our efforts to make sure that Charlie’s family, and all military families, are given fair and equal support.”