BREAKING NEWS: Defense Department to Extend Benefits to Same-Sex Couples
The Department of Defense released a memo today outlining a plan to extend benefits to same-sex partners of military members. Some benefits extended to same-sex partners include child care, youth programs, legal assistance, disability and death compensation, and the right to visit a loved one in the hospital. The announcement fails to extend full health care benefits because federal law still prohibits same-sex couples from receiving them.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called for a change in military procedure "to ensure fairness and equal treatment and to take care of all of our Service members and their families, to the extent allowable under law."
In an interview with USA Today, Panetta said he does not expect resistance to the benefits extension once troops are fully educated on the issue. "When it comes to benefits, we've got to lay some of the same groundwork," Panetta said in the interview. "You just have got to educate people. People who are serving in the military and putting their lives on the line deserve some of the benefits that go with that. We've just got to be able to tie those two together in a way that the military understands and accepts."
The military now has a 60 day window to determine the extent at which these benefits will be extended. The new benefits are expected to go into full effect no later than August 31st of this year.
OutServe-SLDN, an association of actively serving LGBT military personnel, has released a guide containing more information about what these changes mean for service members.
Media Resources: "Extending benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Military Members" 2/11/2013; MSNBC 2/11/2013; USA Today 2/11/2013; OutServe-SLDN 2/11/2013
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .