PentagonThe Pentagon has officially extended some military benefits to same-sex couples. Outgoing US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the decision is in direct effect of the ban on gay recruits that was lifted over a year ago.

“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,” Panetta said in a statement.

“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.”

The benefits will provide same-sex partners with military identity cards, hospital visitation rights, access to youth and education programs and financial compensation in the event their military spouse dies, a Pentagon memo said. It’s estimated that there are about 17,000 same-sex couples in the armed forces, including 5,600 active duty service members.

Panetta stated that federal law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, is the remaining issue that blocks the Pentagon from making health and housing accessible to same sex couples.

“One of the legal limitations to providing all benefits at this time is the Defence of Marriage Act, which is still the law of the land,” Panetta said.

“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.”

Pentagon lawyers are still trying to determine whether housing on military bases could be accessible to same-sex spouses without violating the act.

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