The Pentagon plans to begin issuing identification cards to the same-sex partners of service members beginning Sept. 1, according to an internal personnel Web posting on Thursday.
The dependents’ ID cards will entitle partners to scores of benefits, as outlined by then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a February policy decision.
The ID card Web notice refers to same-sex domestic partners as “SSDPs.”
The benefits include education, survivor, commissary, travel, counseling and transportation, but not what some consider the armed forces’ premium perks — health care and housing allowances.
Mr. Panetta said the federal Defense of Marriage Act restricts those benefits to heterosexual couples, though the Pentagon has not ruled out offering them to homosexual couples at some point.
Still, the new benefits and special ID cards represent a victory for the gay rights movement in the wake of President Obama’s lifting the long-time ban on open homosexuals in the ranks.
“These benefits shall be extended to the same-sex domestic partners and, where applicable, children of same-sex domestic partners, once the service member and their same-sex domestic partner have signed a declaration attesting to the existence of their committed relationship,” Mr. Panetta said.
The Defense of Marriage Act, now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, defines marriage, for the purposes of federal policy, as the union of one man and one woman.
Some benefits can be designated by military members; others require a couple to sign a “declaration of domestic partnership” that attests: “We are each other’s sole domestic partner, in a committed relationship, and intend to remain so indefinitely.”
The armed forces do not offer benefits to heterosexual couples who are not married.
“We do not recognize, because of law, a marriage of a same-sex partner,” a defense official said in February. “So today you have a class of members who get nothing. And so they are not being treated fairly, where a heterosexual couple can get married and they can get all these benefits.”
Pentagon officials told reporters they estimate that 5,600 same-sex couples include an active duty member; 3,400 include a reservist and 8,000 include a retiree.
Robert Maginnis, an analyst at the Family Research Council, said the Pentagon is “ignoring federal law.”
“Sadly, Congress won’t do anything to defend the marriage law or force the Pentagon to stop granting member benefits to same-sex partners because it fears the Obama administration and homosexual activists,” he said. “That fear became evident back in 2010, when a lame-duck Congress failed to stop repeal of the homosexual exclusion law without hearing from a single dissenting voice.”