(WASHINGTON, DC) Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected this week to announce the long-delayed extension of support and benefits for gay and lesbian military families, according to reports. Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson said today that the organization hopes Panetta will take full advantage of this final opportunity to act before leaving office.
"Secretary Panetta established a strong civil rights record long before taking office at the Pentagon, so his unwillingness to extend support and recognition to gay and lesbian service members and their families where it is clearly within his authority to do so has baffled many of us. We are hopeful that he will not take half-measures here; for him to grant anything less than the full extent of benefits available under current law would be an anticlimactic end to an otherwise exemplary record on civil rights," said Robinson.
OutServe-SLDN, previously known as Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, has worked with Panetta and his deputies over the two years since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to get them to offer married same-sex couples those benefits that may be conferred even while the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is the law. Meanwhile, Panetta's expected successor, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, has committed to move quickly to extend these benefits if confirmed.
"Senator Hagel made history with his firm and unequivocal commitment of support to LGBT service members and their families, including his promise if confirmed to act expeditiously to grant all benefits available under current law. For Secretary Panetta to do anything less at this point would be to leave the job half done, leaving in place a self-imposed two-tier system that willingly denies to some service members benefits they have earned and treats them, their families, and their sacrifice as less than worthy," said Robinson.
ABOUT OUTSERVE-SLDN: OutServe-SLDN is the association of actively serving LGBT military personnel with more than fifty chapters and 6000 members around the world It works to support a professional network of LGBT military personnel and create an environment of respect in the military with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. OS-SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. For more information, visit www.outserve-sldn.org .