This is the moment many have been waiting for: the Pentagon announced that it will extend marriage benefits to all military personnel, regardless of gender. And, to show their commitment to same-sex commitments, the military is also giving 10 days of leave to gays and lesbians stationed in states that forbid marriage equality.
"It is now the Department's policy to treat all married military personnel equally," said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. "This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married."
The move, a long time coming, is a significant and meaningful shift. As Mark Joseph Stern notes at Slate: "To allow gay couples to leave the homophobic states in which they are stationed to gain equal rights--to encourage it, actually, by tethering it to a holiday--is a bold endorsement of marriage equality by the military."
Equality groups are of course celebrating the news. "We applaud the Defense Department for acting swiftly and doing all within its power to ensure that married gay and lesbian service members are treated equally," said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, one of the leading groups in the national fight for equality. The fact that same-sex couples who are serving at military bases throughout the country must in many cases travel hundreds if not thousands of miles to get married and be treated as equals by the Pentagon highlights the need to move quickly to national resolution, with the freedom to marry guaranteed to loving and committed couples nationwide."
This is of course great news for thousands of military personel, including Jerrel Revel, the seaman who proposed to boyfriend Dylan Kirschner after getting off a submarine this week (pictured).