Hagel commits to extending support and protections to same-sex military couples

Yesterday, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who has been nominated to become Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration, sent a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer from California addressing some of Boxer's questions about his plans for the position. In the letter, he affirms his support (PDF) for same-sex military couples and their families by saying:

I fully support the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and value the service of all those who fight for our country. I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members.

Today, OutServe-SLDN praised Hagel for his commitment to supporting gay and lesbian military families. Executive Director Allyson Robinson commented:

Senator Hagel's commitment is a turning point for our gay and lesbian military families. His promise to grant these service members the family benefits they have earned demonstrates his deepening grasp of the injustice currently being done to them. 

Under the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from respecting legal marriages between same-sex couples, same-sex couples are deprived of over 1,100 protections and responsibilities afforded to different-sex couples.

The military, forced to comply with DOMA, is unable to extend many protections to gay and lesbian service members in committed same-sex relationships. However, as OutServe-SLDN pointed out in an August 2011 letter to Secretary of Defense Panetta (PDF), the military has "the ability, within the confines of the law, to make same-sex married couples and their families eligible to take part in some of the same programs that are available to straight married couples and their families. These include making same-sex married couples eligible for joint duty assignments, family center programs, and military familiy housing."

Hagel's commitment to extending these protections to same-sex miltiary couples would mark one more step toward fairness for all families. Repealing DOMA would complete the journey and ensure that same-sex couples and their families are valued and protected as much as different-sex couples. 

This year, Freedom to Marry has joined with OutServe-SLDN to amplify stories of how DOMA hurts military families through Freedom to Serve, Freedom to MarryFind out more about the campaign HERE

(Photo by Tatjana Plitt