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Same-sex partners of military members extended some rights

Same-sex partners often face legal challenges when issues such as medical conditions or hospital visits arise. But while same-sex marriage is still not recognized in many states, including Texas, some of those states do offer alternatives that can grant same-sex couples some of the rights marriage would afford.

As readers in Austin may have heard, same-sex couples with at least one partner in military service have been granted certain military benefits by the Defense Department. A memo issued by the department outlined several rights that have been extended to include same-sex partners.

These benefits include identification cards that provide access to services such as commissaries. However, certain benefits, including healthcare and housing, were not included due to existing federal law. But further important benefits, such as access to base housing, may be added at a later date to the 22 benefits currently being offered to same-sex partners.

The Defense Secretary has set a deadline of Oct. 1 for bases to make the benefits outlined in the memo available to same-sex partners of service members. Several unnamed sources within the military have indicated that some of the benefits that have not been extended were affected by the fact that those benefits are specified as being available only to a spouse. That stipulation legally excludes partners in states where gay marriage is not recognized.

The benefits that same-sex partners of military service members can now enjoy include child-care, military aircraft travel and being designated as a domestic partner on new identification cards.

Same-sex couples in Texas still face issues that limit the rights they are able to enjoy. However, it is possible for gay couples to enter into a domestic partnership agreement that can help them protect their legal rights in the event of death, illness or child custody issues.

Source: News Channel 5, "Military benefits extended to same-sex partners," Lolita C. Baldor, Feb. 11, 2013

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