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Pentagon extends certain benefits to same-sex couples

As the U.S. Supreme Court readies to decide the fate of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the Defense Department extended certain benefits to the spouses and unmarried partners of gay service members Monday.

The benefits, until now only available to opposite-sex married couples, include the ability to visit in hospitals, child care services, and military ID cards that gives partners of service members access to on-base amenities.

The move does not grant same-sex couples all the benefits available to heterosexual married couples because DOMA is still in effect, said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. But Panetta said he hopes the Supreme Court will overturn the law when it decides U.S. v. Windsor later this year. Oral arguments are scheduled for next month.

“One of the legal limitations to providing all benefits at this time is the Defense of Marriage Act, which is still the law of the land,” Panetta said in a statement. “There are certain benefits that can only be provided to spouses as defined by that law, which is now being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. While it will not change during my tenure as secretary of defense, I foresee a time when the law will allow the department to grant full benefits to service members and their dependents, irrespective of sexual orientation.”

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