Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Pentagon gives some benefits to gay members
BY DAVID S. CLOUD, Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has agreed to expand benefits for gay and lesbian couples serving in the military, but officials continued to withhold equal access to base housing, health care and educational services.
Leon E. Panetta, the outgoing secretary of defense, signed an order Monday that permits same-sex partners and their dependents to use numerous family-oriented facilities and services on U.S. military bases, including recreation areas, counseling programs, school buses, child care and shopping exchanges.
The order grants same-sex couples the right for the first time to request assignment to the same post or duty station if both serve in the military.
The move comes less than a month after President Barack Obama used his second inaugural address to embrace equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Three days later, Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, announced they were lifting the ban on female soldiers and Marines serving in most ground combat units.
The changes stop far short of full equalization of benefits for same-sex couples in the military.
The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996, effectively barred same-sex couples in the military from the most generous federal benefits, including free or reduced-cost medical services, and tuition assistance. The law defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman.