On Monday, the Pentagon granted many benefits to same-sex partners of military personnel. These included access to military commissaries, gymnasiums, movie theaters, and various family support programs on bases and posts. However, the Pentagon withheld more expansive and sought after benefits, namely medical and dental coverage and housing allowances.
Why is this? I don’t believe that the Pentagon is trying to show discontent with the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law – rather, this issue is out of the Pentagon’s control.
In order for the Pentagon to provide full benefits to same-sex partners of military personnel, the Defense of Marriage Act would need to be repealed, a 1996 law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Although the Pentagon now allows openly gay men and lesbians to serve in the military, the New York Times claims that “[the Pentagon] cannot recognize their marriages, even if they are legal in some states, because military personnel are federal employees covered by the marriage law.”
Well, the Defense of Marriage Act is wrong.
If soldiers are putting their lives on the line every day, there is no reason why their spouses shouldn’t be covered for vital benefits like health care. When the Supreme Court rules on whether this law is constitutional (expected to happen this summer), perhaps they should consider changing the language so as the words “spouse” and “marriage” have nothing to do with sexual orientation.
I do believe that there should be a Defense of Marriage Act in order to define marriage for the citizens of the United States. However, I believe that the role of the government is to respect the happiness of its citizens so long as their happiness does not come at the expense of the happiness of others. And if that requires a slight word change to the Defense of Marriage Act, then so be it.
There are soldiers involved in same-sex marriages who deserve to have their families under full military benefits. When the Supreme Court convenes about this, I hope that they will recognize this reality and alter the Defense of Marriage Act so as to help those who help defend their country every day of their lives.