Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Monday announced the extension of certain benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian service members.

Panetta extended the issuance of military identification cards, access to family support initiatives and joint duty assignments for couples in the military.

Allyson Robinson, director of OutServe-SLDN, which represents LGBT troops, called the package “substantive.”

“Secretary Panetta's decision today answers the call President Obama issued in his inaugural address to complete our nation's journey toward equality, acknowledging the equal service and equal sacrifice of our gay and lesbian service members and their families,” Robinson said in a statement. “We thank him for getting us a few steps closer to full equality – steps that will substantively improve the quality of life of gay and lesbian military families.”

The military is prevented by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) from extending full benefits to the spouses of gay service members. Still, Robinson acknowledged that the Pentagon has done almost as much as it can under the circumstances.

Democrats, including President Barack Obama, have backed legislative repeal of DOMA. However, the measure has stalled in the Republican-controlled House. The Supreme Court will hear a legal challenge to the law next month. House Republicans are paying to defend DOMA in that case, while 10 Senate Republicans have urged the court to uphold the law.

(Related: Charlie Morgan, gay soldier fighting DOMA, dead at 48.)