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Department of Defense clarifies rules on military benefits for gay couples

The U.S. Department of Defense today announced plans to extend benefits to spouses of same-sex uniformed service members and civilian employees in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision that found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

The DOD plans to make spousal and family benefits available by Sept. 3. Those benefits will be retroactive to the day of the court decision, June 26.

In a memo, dated Aug. 13 but released to media today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel lays out the DOD's new rules for legally married gay and lesbian couples.

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[Video] Sec. of Defense Panetta recognizes Pride Month

Leon Panetta

The Department of Defense chief Leon Panetta thanked the many gay and lesbian servicemembers who currently serve in the United States military to commemorate June as National Pride Month this week.

Panetta's statement reflects on the military's implementation of the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the law behind more than 13,000 discharges from service. DADT was officially overturned in the fall of 2011.

“After repeal, you can be proud to serve your country and be proud of who you are when in uniform,” Panetta said in a video released online.

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Servicemembers United: Military discharged 261 under DADT in 2010

The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security discharged 261 gay and lesbian troops last year under the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy, according to Servicemembers United.

The policy, which has since been legislatively repealed, is still technically in effect. President Barack Obama signed the repeal into law late last year but it must be certified by military leaders and the president. After certification, the ban will remain law for 60 days.

No indication has been made about the process used to certify the bill or how long the process will take.

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Defense secretary lays out plan for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal implementation

Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave the first indication of a move toward the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” late last week when he released a memo calling on military leaders to draft training material needed before the repeal’s implementation.

According to the memos, the effective date of repeal has yet to be determined, but they do, however, outline the upcoming policy changes each branch of the military will face after the law is overturned.

The memos also state that once repeal is certified, the military will no longer be allowed to discharge members of the armed services because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation and must cease all open investigations regarding gay servicemembers.  The change in policy will also allow previously discharged soldiers the opportunity to re-enlist.