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Napolitano extends benefits to same-sex partners in U.S. Coast Guard

Secretary Napolitano

As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta signed a memo directing the Department of Defense to extend some benefits to same-sex domestic partners of military service members, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said she had directed the U.S. Coast Guard to do the same.

"Today I directed U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp to implement the extension of benefits for same-sex domestic partners of Coast Guard Service members in accordance with today's announcement by the Department of Defense,” said Napolitano in a Feb. 11 statement. “The Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard stand with the Department of Defense on the extension of benefits for military same-sex partners. The extension of benefits for military same-sex partners honors our department's guiding principles to treat all service members and applicants equally and with dignity and respect,” she said.

“We will continue to work closely with the Department of Defense in implementing these changes to ensure we remain aligned with the other military services."

Panetta’s memo gave the military services until Oct. 1 make the changes that will provide 24 benefits to same-sex partners.

Two of the new benefits, according to the DoD, include hospital visitation and Family Readiness Group membership.

For 22 other benefits, service members and their same-sex partners have to file a “declaration of domestic partnership.” The declaration, said the DoD, entitles same-sex partners to military identification cards, commissary and exchange shopping privileges, child care and youth programs, sexual assault counseling and other benefits.

However, the DoD said other key benefits, like housing, medical and dental care, and overseas command sponsorship for same-sex partners weren’t included in this round of policy changes. Panetta noted in a statement that those benefits are restricted under the Defense of Marriage Act, commonly known as DOMA, which defines “spouse” as someone married to a person of the opposite sex. The Supreme Court is reviewing the law, and is expected to rule on it later this year.