By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com February 14 2013 6:58 PM ET
Congress has introduced a bill to further extend the rights for same-sex partners of people in the military and their families.
The Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act, re-introduced with about 40 co-sponsors as of Thursday, would allow the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs to recognize any marriage that has been recognized by a state, the District of Columbia, commonwealths, territories or possessions and provide the same benefits to the spouses of all service members. The act is designed to act as a stopgap between Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's announcement earlier this week to extend more rights to same-sex military couples, and the repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from officially recognizing marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
“While we wait for a decision from the Supreme Court on DOMA, we look forward to seeing action from the President and the next Secretary of Defense to make sure our troops and their families are protected from discrimination and prejudice,” said American Military Partner Association president Stephen Peters.
Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan fought in her final months to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of military personnel. She passed away last week after a five-year battle with breast cancer, leaving behind her wife Karen and their daughter Casey.
Panetta's announcement this week will allow same-sex military partners to obtain dependent identification cards, family support programs, child care, joint assignments, and other benefits. Still other benefits, such health care and housing allowances, can only be granted to same-sex couples once the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, because those statutes are governed using the words "spouse" and "marriage." DOMA bars the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples.
"All spouses in the military, regardless of orientation, put up with tremendous hardships, and it's time we recognize their contribution and sacrifice with true equality," Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the lead sponsor on the bill, said Thursday.