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Pentagon offers limited benefits to same-sex partners of US troops

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“It’s really nice that the Pentagon reaches out to service members to get their opinions on things, but it shouldn’t be a reason to deny services,” says Greg Jacob, policy director for the Service Women’s Action Network. “Yes, base housing is scarce, but if you qualify for the housing, you should be put on the list for the housing.” 

To receive the new benefits announced by the Pentagon Monday, same-sex partners will not need to be legally married by a state that permits same-sex marriage. Instead, they will be required to fill out a two-page legal form that affirms that two people “are each other’s sole domestic partner, in a committed relationship, and intend to remain so indefinitely.”

Gay rights advocacy groups hailed the decision. Although the Pentagon “did not include a number of important items that could have been granted” – including burial rights at national cemeteries and some overseas travel for spouses – one military gay rights advocacy group called the move “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,” said Allyson Robinson, an Army veteran and executive director of OutServe-SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network), in a statement. 

Pentagon officials say they will continue to review benefits, including housing and burial in the nation’s military cemeteries.

For the newest benefits, the services are expected to provide an implementation plan to the Pentagon within the next 60 days. 

There are roughly 5,600 same-sex partners among active duty troops, 3,400 among National Guard and Reserve forces, and some 8,000 among retirees, according to Defense Department estimates.

The rules are expected to begin going into effect between August and October of this year. 

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