Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon
Panetta is expected this week to announce the extension of certain
benefits to the spouses of gay service members.
According to The
Washington Post, officials at the Pentagon would not say
which benefits will be extended.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
prevents the agency from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and
lesbian couples. However, gay rights activists have mounted a
campaign seeking certain benefits they say will not violate the law,
including housing privileges, access to base recreational facilities
and joint duty assignments for couples in the military.
“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,
executive director of OutServe-SLDN, which represents LGBT troops,
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.
Twenty-five lawmakers signed on to a
letter calling on Panetta to take the action.
“As long as they remain in place,
these restrictions have the effect of perpetuating discrimination
against same-sex spouses and their families,” reads the letter,
written by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, a Democrat from California.
“Department of Defense current policy is treating same sex service
members, their spouses and families as second class citizens.”