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(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today applauded the decision by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to extend a slate of benefits to LGBT military families. Together, Shaheen and Gillibrand have been vocal advocates calling for the extension of benefits to LGBT servicemen and women and their families since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011.  Some of the extended benefits announced by Secretary Panetta this morning include access to family support initiatives and joint duty assignments.  In January, the Senators co-signed a letter urging Secretary Panetta to bring the Defense Department benefits of LGBT service up to par with those heterosexual couples receive.

“Secretary Panetta’s historic announcement this morning is an important and welcome step forward. All of the brave men and women who risk their lives to serve our country deserve the complete benefits the military has to offer,” said Senator Shaheen. “But while I’m obviously pleased by this morning’s announcement, I also recognize that much more remains to be done to ensure full and complete equality for LGBT families, starting with the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). LGBT Americans and families deserve equal treatment under the law and as long as the DOMA remains in place, important benefits will be unavailable to same-sex military couples. That is an unacceptable reality and I’m committed to doing all I can to see DOMA abolished.” 

"Today's announcement by Secretary Panetta that important benefits will be extended to same-sex partners of military service members is another significant step forward on the march to full equality for all of our men and women serving in uniform," said Senator Gillibrand. "Senator Shaheen and I have long advocated for these benefits to be extended and I thank Secretary Panetta for his commitment to working with us to implement these changes as quickly as feasible. But make no mistake, our work is far from done. We will continue the fight to repeal DOMA to ensure that every loving committed couple has the same benefits regardless of who they love."

Senators Shaheen and Gillibrand were both strong advocates for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and in its aftermath have called for the extension of benefits to same-sex couples serving in the military.