While LGBT US troops can now serve openly, they cannot assume the same benefits their straight peers take for granted.
According to reports, the US Department of Defense plans on making sure family members of LGBT troops are covered by military benefits.
‘The new benefits may include housing privileges, access to base recreational facilities and joint duty assignments for uniformed couples…,’ according to a 5 February Washington Post article.
However, due to the Defense of Marriage law, health care benefits will not be included in the Pentagon’s plans. The 1996 law keeps the government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
Despite the rumors, gay rights organizations are confused why it has taken Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta so long to move on this issue.
‘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,’ Allyson Robinson, OutServe-SLDN’s executive director, said in a statement. ‘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.’
‘Every day that goes by is another day of unnecessary sacrifice for our families,’ Human Rights Campaign vice president for communications Fred Sainz said in a BuzzFeed article.
According to the BuzzFeed, the proposal is prepared. However, both the White House and Defense Department have been quiet on why it has taken so long to make an announcement.
One possible reason could be Chuck Hagel, the man nominated to replace Panetta. Until a secretary is firmly in place, the Obama administration could be holding up any major statements concerning LGBT troops.
The Senate Armed Services Committee hasn’t held a vote on Hagel, although his confirmation was on 31 January. Republicans insist they need more financial information, and there’s even chatter he will withdraw his name from consideration. This is being denied by supporters.
‘There is absolutely no truth to the notion that Sen. Hagel might consider withdrawing,’ a Hagel aide told the site Politico. ‘He’s continuing his prep work and getting up to speed on the issues he will deal with as Secretary of Defense.’
During his hearing, the nominee promised to stand up for all troops.
‘I will faithfully, diligently enforce our laws,’ Hagel said. ‘All men and women deserve the same rights. I can assure you that that will be a high priority to enforce that and assure that in every way through the entire chain of command.’