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Military benefits for married troops don't include same-sex couples

The adoption of same-sex marriage laws in New York has continued the discussion about gay service members. The number of married gay members serving in the military is expected to rise, but the government doesn't offer the same spousal support for same-sex couples as it does for heterosexual service members.

Even with the end of an 18-year reign of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" for gay troops due this fall, the legal rights of same-sex husbands and wives of military service people are not expected to change. The Defense of Marriage Act only recognizes marriages of those of the opposite sex.

The Pentagon can prohibit granting gay military couples the same housing, health, food and death benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. A second military-related law also has a specific definition of a service member's "dependent" that currently excludes a same-sex spouse.

The gay and lesbian advocacy organization Courage Campaign thinks that the military is going to have problems if it allows service members to be openly gay without giving them equal financial benefits and support.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said military leaders are considering the impact of the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and may make small concessions to same-sex military couples. Perks like no-cost legal services could be offered, but standard benefits like free base housing and health care benefits are not set to be part of the compromise.

The same-sex support group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says the disparity in government military benefits to service people based on their sexual orientation may be an issue best solved by the courts.

Source: The New York Times, "Same Sex Marriages Face Military Limits," James Dao, 16 July 2011

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