The Department of Defense released a memo Monday announcing plans to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners of military members. Among the benefits being extended to same-sex domestic partners and children of same-sex domestic partners are youth programs, child care, legal assistance, and disability and death compensation.
The full memo describes the need to change the military's polices and practices "to ensure fairness and equal treatment and to take care of all of our Service members and their families, to the extent allowable under law." The extended benefits are expected to be available to same-sex domestic partners and families by August 31.
Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, told msnbc's Thomas Roberts Monday that outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Pentagon have done all they could to ensure equality for same-sex domestic partners, but the rest is up to the Supreme Court as the justices prepare to hear arguments against the Defense of Marriage Act in March.
"In the end though, this comes down to the Supreme Court," Robinson said. "I hope they see now that the only way to get out of this unjust and untenable situation is to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act."
The news comes a day after the passing of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, who came out publicly on msnbc the day "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed in 2011. Morgan, who passed away after a two-year battle with breast cancer, advocated for extended benefits for her wife and daughter, and were listed as plaintiffs in a 2011 lawsuit that challenged DOMA and other federal statutes that blocked benefits for same-sex families in the military.
"This isn't all that Charlie was fighting for," Robinson said, adding that there is still a need for continuing advocacy against DOMA. "There's so much more to be done."
In a statement released Monday praising the Pentagon's announcement, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin also emphasized the importance of the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA:
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. Gay and lesbian service members and their families make sacrifices every day, and this country owes them every measure of support we can provide. Since the repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,’ the Obama administration has shown true leadership on this issue. But even today, the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act makes inequality for gay and lesbian military families a legal requirement.