In February, the Defense Department made a welcome announcement, extending new benefits to gay men and women serving openly in the military and their families. But as we discussed in June, there was a catch: the Defense of Marriage Act prevented the Pentagon from going as far as officials wanted to.
The Department of Defense announced a plan Wednesday to extend a range of federal benefits to same-sex spouses of military service members starting Sept. 3.The Pentagon will extend to legally married same-sex couples the same privileges and programs that are provided to legally married heterosexual couples, including benefits tied to health care, housing, and family separation allowance, compensation paid to military members when their dependents can't live with them at their permanent duty station.
In a statement, the Pentagon said, "The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs."
The "as the law directs" phrase isn't just a superfluous phrase -- it's actually a relevant caveat. Servicemembers who are stationed in states that have approved marriage equality can, of course, now get legally married and live with their same-sex spouse in military housing. But what about servicemembers in other states? NBC News reported that they'll be offered up to 10 days of leave so they can travel to one of the 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, that grant same-sex marriage licenses.
This is a level of military progressivism that was simply unthinkable in the not-too-distant past.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), true to form, isn't pleased: "I am unaware of any legal authority for the DoD to grant 10 days of non-chargeable leave, a benefit that offers preferential treatment to same-sex marriage over heterosexual marriage.... As I have warned before, this administration is eroding our military's historical apolitical stance by using it as their activism arm for their liberal social agenda."
It's the kind of whining one generally expects from those who fought and lost a culture war.