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February 12, 2013 10:45 AM On Equality Front, From “Why?” to “Why Not?”

By Ed Kilgore

It’s a token of how rapidly the political dam against LGBT equality has broken that the Pentagon’s announcement that it is extending family benefits to gay men and women serving in the military made relatively few waves. HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel has the story:

Gay rights groups have been pressing the Pentagon to extend equal benefits to gay service members and their families since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The newly granted benefits include commissary privileges; ID cards to get on base; access to family support initiatives, legal assistance and sexual assault counseling; ability to take emergency leave for family emergencies and joint duty assignments. The move was one of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s last moves as a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, and it will likely be one of his most lasting legacies.
“At the time of repeal, I committed to reviewing benefits that had not previously been available to same-sex partners based on existing law and policy,” Panetta said on Monday. “It is a matter of fundamental equity that we provide similar benefits to all of those men and women in uniform who serve their country. The department already provides a group of benefits that are member-designated. Today, I am pleased to announce that after a thorough and deliberate review, the department will extend additional benefits to same-sex partners of service members.”

Interestingly enough, the announcement spurred some discussion of items not included in the new policy:

The new benefits do not include certain items that could have been granted, such as burial rights at national cemeteries, on-base housing and certain travel expenses for spouses. In a memo explaining the changes, Panetta said extending these items to gay service members presents “complex legal and policy challenges to due their nexus to statutorily-prohibited benefits and due to ongoing reviews about how best to provide scarce resources.”

But the key thing to note here is that discussion of same-sex-partner benefits has now moved from a “why?” to a “why not?” dynamic, in which exceptions to equal treatment are becoming more notable than equal treatment itself. That’s a big deal beyond the ranks of the military.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • c u n d gulag on February 12, 2013 11:05 AM:

    And, while for LGBT folks, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice," has finally happened fairly quickly in the past decade (plus) - the Conservatives are still determined to bend that back towards injustice: as well as the progress we've made with civil and women's rights, the rights of immigrants and the handicapped, and any and every thing else that doesn't benefit the rich and white.

    They want to go back to the '50's.

    And I suspect that's the 1150's - before the Magna Carta got signed.

  • boatboy_srq on February 12, 2013 11:31 AM:

    @CUND - more like the 1550s: post Magna Carta (so the Elect™ get their special rights), immediately after Luther and Henry VIII (so there can be a whole horde of "heretics" to oppress/convert/"save", and at the same time divorce is suddenly less damnable than it was so serial monogamy can be both fun and virtuous) yet pre-Edict-of-Nantes (so not that much tolerance is available), and at the height of the Inquisition and Counter-Reformation (both being movements the Teahad seems to be inordinately enamoured of).

  • c u n d gulag on February 12, 2013 12:08 PM:

    Yup.
    Makes sense.

    I stand corrected!

  • Luis Rodriguez on February 12, 2013 2:33 PM:

    Do you know when the Flat Earth Soociety will be given a chance to comment on the SOTU?