Even as outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta continues to push the Supreme Court to open up more rights, the Pentagon has officially begun extending certain benefits to same-sex military families, according to a memorandum released today by the White House. The memo follows last week's announcement from Panetta that the military would grant as many privileges as it could without violating the Defense of Marriage Act, whose constitutionality will be challenged toward the end of March.

Unfortunately, the two most important benefits — subsidized health care (TRICARE) and housing allowances — were not included. In the memo, Panetta blames DOMA:

In the event that the Defense of Marriage Act is no longer applicable to the Department of Defense, it will be the policy of the Department to construe the Words “spouse” and “marriage” without regard to sexual orientation, and married couples, irrespective of sexual orientation, and their dependents, will be granted full military benefits.

Panetta's oblique message to the Supreme Court continues what he said in announcing the move last week:

"While it will not change during my tenure as secretary of defense, I foresee a time when the law will allow the department to grant full benefits to service members and their dependents, irrespective of sexual orientation."

That said, the memo helpfully lists the benefits that same-sex military spouses or domestic partners are entitled to immediately. (Previously, it was unclear which benefits would make the cut, given the provisions of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages.) Those benefits are:

  • Service Members Group Life Insurance Beneficiary
  • Post Vietnam-Era Veterans Assistance Program Beneficiary
  • A11-Volunteer Force Educational Assistance Program - Active Duty Death Benefit; Death Gratuity Beneficiary
  • Final Settlement of Accounts Beneficiary
  • Wounded Warrior Designated Caregiver
  • Thrift Savings Plan Beneficiary
  • Survivor Beneñt Plan Beneficiary for Retirees
  • Casualty Notification
  • Escorts for Dependents of Deceased or Missing Members - Eligibility to be an Escort
  • Designation of Persons Having Interest in Status of a Missing Member
  • Veterans’ Group Life Insurance Beneficiary
  • Person Eligible to Receive Effects of Deceased Persons
  • Travel and Transportation Allowance: Attendance at Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Events

  • Travel and Transportation Allowance: Transportation of Designated Individuals Incident to Hospitalization of Members for Treatment of Wounds, Illness, Injury; 

  • Designation of Persons Authorized to Direct Disposition of Remains of Members of the Armed Forces

  • Presentation of the Flag ofthe United States

  • Transportation for Survivors of Deceased Member to Attend the Member’s Burial Ceremony or Memorial Service
  • Hospital Visitation Privileges
  • Membership in Family Readiness Groups

The memo also states that the following benefits will be extended to same-sex couples no later than October 2013:

  • Dependent ID cards, Which Will be Renewed in Accordance with Existing Policies
  • Commissary Privileges
  • Exchange Privileges
  • Morale, Welfare and Recreation Programs
  • Surveys of Military Families
  • Quadrennial Quality of Life Review
  • Emergency Leave
  • Emergency Leave of Absence
  • Youth Sponsorship Program
  • Youth Programs
  • Family Center Programs
  • Sexual Assault Counseling Program
  • Joint Duty Assignments
  • Exemption from Hostile-Fire Areas
  • Transportation to and from Certain Places of Employment and on Military Installations
  • Transportation to and from Primary and Secondary School for Minor Dependents
  • Authority of Service Secretary to Transport Remains of a Dependent
  • Disability and Death Compensation: Dependents of Members Held as Captives
  • Payments to Missing Persons
  • Space-Available Travel on DOD Aircraft
  • Child Care
  • Legal Assistance

Here's the full memo: