The Pentagon says there are roughly 5,600 active duty and 3,400 Guard and Reserve gay and lesbian service members, as well as 8,000 retired military personnel.
In February, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a directive that opened up the new benefits to same-sex couples, including death benefits, hospital visitation privileges and commissary access. The implementation of those benefits for same-sex couples is supposed to be completed by Oct. 1.
The memo said that "in the event that the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer applicable to the Department of Defense ... married couples, irrespective of sexual orientation, and their dependents, will be granted full military benefits."
Veterans groups opposed to DOMA hailed the decision as an important step toward granting gay service members equal treatment in the military.
“IAVA is proud that all American service members can now serve openly in the military, and that they and their families can receive the benefits that they have earned,” Derek Bennett, chief of staff of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“Under DOMA, LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] service members who protect our country are denied benefits afforded to their peers. Thankfully, today, we have protected the rights of all troops, veterans and their families," Bennett said.
OutServe-SLDN, a military association that advocates for gay and lesbian service members, said Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelInterpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 escapes Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE should quickly move to provide same-sex couples those benefits that are currently off-limits.
“We expect Secretary Hagel to act so that all families affected by today’s ruling gain access to full recognition, benefits, and support no later than sixty days from today,” OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson said in a statement.