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Benefits to be issued to same-sex partners of military members

In September, same-sex partners of military service members will begin receiving identification cards issued by the U.S. government. These dependent ID cards will provide many benefits to same-sex partners that were once only reserved for married service members. The web notice about the upcoming issuance of the identification cards uses "SSDP" for same-sex domestic partners.

For those military members with same-sex domestic partners living in Colorado, as well as around the world, this is encouraging news. The ID cards will provide education, commissary, survivor, transportation, travel and counseling benefits; however, two important benefits not included are housing allowances and health care.

The Defense of Marriage Act states these two benefits will remain only available to heterosexual couples. According to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the Pentagon may offer those benefits to homosexual couples in the future.

In February, Panetta said the only requirement for to receive the offered benefits is that the service member and their partner sign a declaration stating they are in a committed relationship with each other and only each other.

According to Pentagon officials, there are an estimated 5,600 active duty members with a same-sex partner. For reservists, that number is estimated to be around 3,400. For retirees, it is believed to be about 8,000.

An official with the Pentagon said in February that because same-sex marriages are not recognized by law in most states or on a federal level, there is an entire group of military members who are not eligible for benefits. In addition, the official said heterosexual couples have the right to marry; therefore, they can get the benefits now afforded to same-sex couples.

This family law issue will likely bring complications at some point when same-sex couples decide to separate. As of May 2013, same-sex couples can join together in civil union in Colorado, but they cannot marry. When separating, there may be issues concerning child custody, visitation, child support and property division. An attorney specializing in family law issues will be able to provide you with options and ensure your rights are protected.

Source:  washingtontimes.com, "Military benefits for same-sex couples to begin Sept. 1" Rowan Scarborough, Jun. 07, 2013

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