WASHINGTON —The Pentagon has agreed to expand benefits for gay and lesbian couples serving in the military, but officials continued to withhold equal access to base housing, health care and educational services.
Leon Panetta, the outgoing secretary of defense, signed an order Monday that permits same-sex partners and their dependents to use numerous family-oriented facilities and services on U.S. military bases, including recreation areas, counseling programs, school buses, child care and shopping exchanges.
The order grants same-sex couples the right for the first time to request assignment to the same post or duty station if both serve in the military. It also allows partners to receive pay and other benefits if one is taken prisoner or is missing in action.
The changes stop far short of full equalization of benefits for same-sex couples in the military. The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996, barred same-sex couples from the most generous benefits, including free or reduced-cost medical services and tuition assistance. The law defines marriage as the legal union between one man and one woman.
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments next month in a case that challenges the law as unconstitutional. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed Jan. 29, 10 Republican U.S. senators urged the court to overturn the rulings of multiple lower courts and uphold the law.