Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will announce this week that a long-delayed extension of support and benefits for lesbian and gay military families. Reports coming to OutServe-SLDN indicate that Panetta will take advantage of this opportunity to act before he has to leave office.
OS-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, an Army Veteran, stated “Secretary Panetta established a strong civil rights record long before taking office at the Pentagon, so his unwillingness to extend support and recognition to gay and lesbian service members and their families where it is clearly within his authority to do so has baffled many of us. We are hopeful that he will not take half-measures here; for him to grant anything less than the full extent of benefits available under current law would be an anticlimactic end to an otherwise exemplary record on civil rights.”
The group, which was formed of the union of two different groups, has been working with Panetta and his deputies for several years to repeal first Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and then get full rights for LGB individuals similar to those of straight soldiers. Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel has committed to moving quickly to extending the benefits as well.
Robinson said “Senator Hagel made history with his firm and unequivocal commitment of support to LGBT service members and their families, including his promise if confirmed to act expeditiously to grant all benefits available under current law. For Secretary Panetta to do anything less at this point would be to leave the job half done, leaving in place a self-imposed two-tier system that willingly denies to some service members benefits they have earned and treats them, their families, and their sacrifice as less than worthy.”