WASHINGTON - The Pentagon announced on Monday it would extend more of the benefits offered to spouses of heterosexual troops to those of gay personnel but acknowledged some key benefits, like housing, would still be off-limits, at least for now.
The step came 17 months after the Pentagon scrapped its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on openly serving homosexuals in the US military and will affect the day-to-day lives of their spouses in ways big and small - from allowing them to finally get military I.D. cards to granting hospital visitation rights.
But outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in a memorandum explaining the move, noted his actions were limited by US law, specifically the Defense of Marriage Act, which is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court and which defines marriage as a union between a man and woman.
"There are certain benefits that can only be provided to spouses as defined by that law," said Panetta, who is expected to retire in the coming days.