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Same-sex couples in military to receive more benefits

With the changing nature of family in Los Angeles and around the country, many families are finding themselves struggling for rights and inclusion in a system that is not necessarily designed to consider their interests. Same-sex couples have been fighting for equality and recognition for years, but the tide finally seems to turning. In many areas of law and life, same-sex relationships are being given the same treatment as heterosexual relationships, including in the military.

An order recently signed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gives same-sex couples serving in the military access to a range of benefits previously reserved for only heterosexual couples. The order includes approximately twelve different benefits, such as access to counseling programs, school buses, child care, and legal assistance. The right to receive pay and other aid when a partner is taken prisoner or becomes missing in action, as well as the right to request to be assigned to the same post, are also covered in the order. The deadline for making these changes is October 1, but the recommended goal is the end of August. Unfortunately, base housing and burial at Arlington for partners are not provided for in the order.

As this development shows, same-sex couples in Los Angeles have many of the same needs and desires as heterosexual couples. The relationships between same-sex individuals are very similar in many ways, including in terms of what should be considered during a marriage or divorce. When same-sex couples divorce, the resolution of the situation can depend both on the recognition the relationship enjoyed prior to the split, as well as the couple's own efforts to protect their own interests.

If a relationship was registered as a domestic partnership, the couple will have many of same rights and responsibilities as married people during a separation. Cohabitation agreements are different in that they are a way of protecting each partner's interest, similar to a prenuptial agreement. Regardless of the exact legal form a relationship takes, planning ahead and consulting an experienced lawyer at any stage can help resolve disputes over key issues and protect each partner's rights and interests.

Source: Neon Tommy, "Pentagon Gives More Military Benefits to Same-Sex Couples," Brianna Sacks, Feb. 11, 2013

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