FAYETTEVILLE — Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has announced that several benefits will be extended to same-sex partners in the military later this year.
However, due to the Defense of Marriage Act, some benefits are not offered.
Capt. Daniel Toven of the US Army and his partner Jonathan have been together for 18 months. Toven said the new benefits are a step that makes the two of them feel more accepted in the military family.
"To have more community support and to have these families recognized is really a big thing,” said Toven.
Panetta announced Monday that all same-sex partners of military soldiers will receive extended benefits to include access to on-post shopping, Department of Defense ID cards, legal assistance and access to morale, and welfare and recreation programs.
These benefits would be extended to same-sex domestic partners once they sign a declaration attesting to their committed relationship. Ashley Broadway, and her partner, Lt. Col. Heather Mack have been together 15 years and have two children.
"Knowing that now an ID will be issued so that I can access post just like any other military spouse is extremely symbolic,” said Broadway.
In his statement, Panetta addressed the Defense of Marriage Act, which puts some limitations on what benefits can be extended to same sex partners. He said:
I foresee a time when the law will allow the department to grant full benefits to service members and their dependents, irrespective of sexual orientation. Until then, the department will comply with the current law.
For now, additional benefits such as housing and health care are currently not available. However, Toven said he is still very proud to wear his uniform everyday.
"There has been a greater acceptance of same sex relationships and same sex long term commitments, and I think that we are seeing the military move with that. And what makes me proud to wear the uniform is once again I think the military is leading the way,” said Capt. Toven
Government officials said they will make an effort to ensure same-sex partners of service members receive benefits by August 31.