A new memo issued by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has extended military benefits to same-sex domestic partners and their children. The document boldly states: "Discrimination based on sexual-orientation no longer has a place in the military."
Twenty benefits such as education, hospital visitation, travel, transportation, identification cards, casualty notification, family counseling, relocation assistance programs will be available to same sex couples who sign a declaration certifying their committed relationship.
"Today the Pentagon took a historic step forward toward righting the wrong of inequality in our armed forces, but there is still more work to be done," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in an interview with BuzzFeed.
Although this is a huge step for gay and lesbian rights in the military, there are still important benefits limited to heterosexual couples. Under the restrictions imposed by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), benefits including house and health care have not been granted to same-sex couples. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said their issuance would continue to be reviewed, as the Supreme Court will rule on DOMA's constitutionality this year.
Coming more than a year after the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, this memo is an example of the government's new approach to gay and lesbian rights both in the military and in general.
Check out the full memo below: