Military benefits? Not for gay couples in armed forces.
Military benefits will still be mostly reserved for heterosexual couples. Despite the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' military benefits like housing and travel allowances won't be extended to gay partners.
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The military's staunchly traditional, tight-knit society, meanwhile, has been quickly adapting to the social revolution: Many gay officers say they have already come out to their commanders and fellow troops, and now discuss their weekend plans without a worry.Skip to next paragraph
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The Air Force officer says he has dropped the code words "Red Solo Cups" — the red plastic cups used at parties — that he slipped into conversations for years to tell his partner he loved him when troops were within earshot. He now feels comfortable saying "I love you" on the phone, no longer fearful he will be interrogated by peers.
One male soldier, who also asked not to be identified, said after Congress approved repealing the law, he listed his boyfriend on his Army forms as his emergency contact and primary beneficiary of his military life insurance in case he dies in Afghanistan.
He said when he was transferred to South Korea, he and his partner had to pay for his partner's move.
"But we were able to stay together," the soldier wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press from Afghanistan. "During the move, I realized I needed to make sure my partner in life was taken care of if something, the worst, ever happened to me, especially knowing I was about to deploy."
The soldier said when he added his boyfriend's name to the paperwork as a primary beneficiary and identified him as a friend, the non-commissioned officer in charge shut his office door and told him: "Unlike the inherentbenefits to being married in the Army, such as housing and sustenance allowances, our life insurance and will don't discriminate."
Same-sex partners can be listed as the person to be notified in case a service member is killed, injured, or missing, but current regulations prevent anyone other than immediate family — not same-sex spouses — from learning the details of the death. Same-sex spouses also will not be eligible for travel allowances to attend repatriation ceremonies if their military spouses are killed in action.
Gay spouses also will be denied military ID cards. That means they will not be allowed on bases unless they are accompanied by a service member and they cannot shop at commissaries or exchanges that have reduced prices for groceries and clothing, nor can they be treated at military medical facilities. They also will be excluded from base programs providing recreation and other such kinds of support.
Military officials say some hardship cases may be handled on an individual basis. Activists warn such an approach will create an administrative nightmare and leave the military vulnerable to accusations of making inconsistent decisions that favor some and not others.
Military families enjoy assistance from the Defense Department to compensate for the hardship of having a mother or father or both deployed to war zones and moved frequently.
"It strains a relationship when you're gone for over a year," said Navy medical corpsman Andrew James, 27, who lived two years apart from his same-sex partner, who could not afford to move with him when he was transferred from San Diego to Washington. "But straight couples have support so their spouses are able to be taken care of, with financial issues, and also they are able to talk to the chain of command, whereas gays can't. They don't have any support at all financially or emotionally, and that is really devastating."
He said he was lucky that his relationship survived and now that he is in the Reserves, they are together again in San Diego.
The benefits issue came up repeatedly during training sessions to prepare troops for the policy change.
"There are inconsistencies," Maj. Daryl Desimone told a class of Marines at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego, after being asked about benefits for gay military personnel. "Anyone who looks at it logically will see there are some things that need to be worked out in the future."
The military's policy denying benefits to same-sex couples could change if legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act prove successful. The Obama administration has said it will not defend DOMA in court.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department filed a legal brief in federal court in San Francisco in support of a lesbian federal employee's lawsuit claiming the government wrongly denied health coverage to her same-sex spouse. The brief said the lawsuit should not be dismissed because DOMA violates the constitution's guarantee of equal protection and was motivated by hostility toward gays and lesbians.