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Rep. Schiff Applauds Extension of Benefits to Military Same-Sex Spouses

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta grants same-sex spouses of military personnel access to some benefits not blocked by DOMA.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who represents West Hollywood in Congress, voiced his approval of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's announcement Monday that same-sex spouses will receive some benefits and services available to everyone married to military personnel.

The perks now accessible to same-sex partners are child care services, member-designated hospital visits and military ID cards, which enable access to on-base commissaries, movie theaters and gyms.

Up to this point same sex spouses of U.S. service members are denied a range of services and benefits, includng health insurance, pre-deployment counseling and access to base commissaries due to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

"One of the legal limitations to providing all benefits at this time is the Defense of Marriage Act, which is still the law of the land," Panetta said in a statement. "There are certain benefits that can only be provided to spouses as defined by that law, which is now being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. While it will not change during my tenure as secretary of defense, I foresee a time when the law will allow the department to grant full benefits to service members and their dependents, irrespective of sexual orientation."

In a letter to Panetta earlier this month that Schiff wrote and nearly 40 House members signed, legislators urged the secretary to grant same-sex spouses military identification cards, access to Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs, and to allow access to family programs like deployment support, marriage and family counseling, relocation assistance and financial management.

“We need to make sure that all military families—including those with same-sex partners serving at home and overseas—are treated equally, and this is an important step,” Schiff said in a statement. “Secretary Panetta today added to his already-impressive legacy by taking administrative action to make sure that all military families have access to the very best care, facilities and services possible. Now it’s time for Congress to finish the job by repealing DOMA and passing legislation that will extend full benefits for LGBT service members.”

In the letter Schiff stated the Defense Department "is treating service members, their same sex spouses and families as second class citizens. As President Obama stated during his inaugural speech, 'Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.'"

According to NBC News:

The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), a support network for LGBT military families, released the following statement today in response to Panetta's announcement: 

“We’ve waited far too long for this, and it’s fantastic news that our dedicated military families will now have access to some of the benefits and support services they need and deserve,” said Stephen Peters, the group's president. “However, (DOMA)  continues to undermine our military families who sacrifice so much for our nation. This summer, we hope that the Supreme Court will make it clear that our families are just as important and deserve the same protections, benefits, and support that federal recognition brings.”

Panetta's memo that directs the change in Defense Department policy is posted above as a .pdf file.

Click here to read the NBC News article.

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