Hagel vows to push for equal benefits for gay and lesbian military families

Posted on 15 Jan 2013 at 1:18pm

Chuck Hagel

Two LGBT groups, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Family Equality Council, are praising Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel after he wrote a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer addressing concerns about his appointment. Boxer endorsed the Hagel nomination on Monday. She had withheld support citing his positions on Israel, women’s and LGBT issues.

With regard to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Hagel wrote:

“I fully support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and value the service of all those who fight for our country. I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members.”

In the U.S. Senate, Hagel received a 0 percent rating with Human Rights Campaign and voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. He was not in the Senate for the enactment or repeal of DADT.

“This commitment is a big step forward for military families with lesbian and gay parents,” said Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy for Family Equality Council. “The Department of Defense has a lot of work to do to ensure that all military families have access to the benefits they’ve earned through service to their country. We look forward to working with the Administration to make sure that all military families, including those with lesbian and gay servicemembers, are protected and respected.”

“Senator Hagel’s commitment is a turning point for our gay and lesbian military families,” said SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson. “His promise to grant these service members the family benefits they have earned demonstrates his deepening grasp of the injustice currently being done to them.”

In its press release, SLDN referred to a 2011 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demanding a list of benefits available to straight military and denied to gay and lesbian military because of DOMA. That list includes issuance of military ID cards for a non-military spouse and access to military hospitals to visit a sick child by the non-military parent. Without a military ID card, a spouse cannot get on a base to visit the child.

While far right wing members of the Senate continue to oppose Hagel’s nomination, Jewish members are beginning to support him. In addition to Boxer, Chuck Schumer of New York expressed support today.

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