The United States government announced this week that it has extended a number of federal benefits to homosexuals in the military.
The announcement was made by outgoing Department of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who states that he would like to see the accommodations implemented by October 1st, if not before. Among the benefits, of which there are 22, include hospital visitations, notification of casualties, ceremonial rights, military child care and legal services, participation in family groups on base and privileges in commissaries.
Because the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the government from recognizing any other relationship outside of a wedded man and woman as being a marriage, certain other benefits could not be extended. These items include assistance with housing and the provision of healthcare benefits. DOMA is currently being challenged in the United States Supreme Court, which is expected to hear oral argument over the issue next month and rule on the matter in June. As previously reported, over two dozen briefs supportive of DOMA have been submitted to the court thus far.
“Taking care of our service members and honoring the sacrifices of all military families are two core values of this nation,” Panetta said in his announcement. “Extending these benefits is an appropriate next step under current law to ensure that all service members receive equal support for what they do to protect this nation.”
In order to be granted the benefits, homosexual service members and their significant other must sign a document affirming the “existence of their committed relationship.”
The move is stated to be the next goal on the agenda following the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that required homosexuals in the military to be careful not to reveal their homosexuality to others. The law was overturned by both houses of Congress in 2010, with one of the most notable supporters of the repeal being Representative Ron Paul of Texas.
“It isn’t the issue of homosexuality, it’s the concept and understanding of individual human rights,” Paul stated at a 2008 presidential debate when asked to outline his position.
However, with this week’s announcement of the extension of benefits to homosexuals, some members of Congress disagree with the move.
“There’s enough on the plate already, and this is just another example of this [Obama] administration diverting its attention when it’s needed elsewhere,” said Representative Duncan Hunter of California, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Hunter told reporters that he believes the focus of the Defense Department should rather be on Afghanistan and the military budget.
America’s first president, George Washington, also opposed homosexuality in the military. In 1778, Washington ordered Lieutenant Frederick Gotthold Enslin to be drummed out of the camp for “attempting to commit sodomy” with a male soldier. His March 14th proclamation stated, “His Excellency, the Commander in Chief, approves the sentence, and with abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes, orders Lieut. Enslin to be drummed out of camp tomorrow morning by all the drummers and fifers in the Army never to return; the drummers and fifers to attend on the Grand Parade at guard mounting for that purpose.”
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