Here’s some good news.
Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson today praised outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for his decision to extend to nearly the full extent permitted under current law the benefits available to gay and lesbian service members and their families. 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.
OutServe-SLDN have prepared a thorough (as it can be this early in the game) FAQ on how this will help lesbian and gay members of the military – yes, I intentionally did not use LGBTQ to simply help us keep in mind – this is progress not perfection.
What DOMA-blocked benefits are not being extended?
None of the DOMA-blocked benefits are being extended at this time. This includes
- Medical and Dental Care
- Dependent-rate Housing Allowances
- Survivor Benefits
- Cost of Living Allowances
- Command Sponsored Visas to be stationed with service members abroad
- Protection under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
For a comprehensive list of military benefits that DOMA blocks, click here.
The DOD expects the policy change to be fully in force by August 2013 and it does involve an affidavit of a Domestic Partnership. Interestingly, the Pentago is using a lower standard of “proof” of a domestic partnership than the City of Pittsburgh does for its employees – and the City offers are fewer benefits. Perhaps it is time to revisit that standard, Council?
From my point of view, the repeal of DADT was like ENDA – the eligibility to be employed without prejudice was affirmed. Now, the benefits issues are being addressed but encountering the same roadblocks private employers hit when it comes to the two-tiered system off defining family. Important to keep in mind though – the core principle was the freedom to serve, the freedom to be employed.
Chris Geidner has a pretty in-depth explanation of the legal challenges OutServe-SLDN are mounting around DOMA.