The Pentagon has decided to extend certain benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian personnel, according to officials and people notified about the decision, responding to the increasingly vocal appeals of same-sex couples in the military.
The military expects to announce the decision this week. Officials at the Pentagon would not say which new benefits the department has determined it can extend to same-sex couples without violating the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that bars the federal government from legally recognizing same-sex unions. Gay rights advocates have called for benefits including housing privileges, access to base recreational facilities and joint duty assignments for couples in the military.
Legal experts say, however, that the Pentagon will be unable to extend more than 100 benefits while the Defense of Marriage Act remains in place.
The new guidelines will be departing Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta’s final imprint on the armed forces. They will also come on the heels of two landmark changes undertaken under his relatively short tenure: the rescinding of the ban on openly gay service members and the decision to allow women to serve in combat units.