Chuck Hagel promised to extend benefits to same-sex military couples in a letter sent to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) yesterday.
Addressing a number of Democratic concerns over his nomination as President Barack Obama's next secretary of defense, the former Republican senator from Nebraska reiterated that he supports open service and would seek to extend benefits currently denied to same-sex military couples.
"I fully support the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and value the service of all those who fight for our country," Hagel wrote. "I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members."
Hagel's letter comes after some Democrats voiced qualms over Hagel's nomination, which Obama formally announced Jan. 7.
According to Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, "Senator Hagel's commitment is a turning point for our gay and lesbian military families. His promise to grant these service members the family benefits they have earned demonstrates his deepening grasp of the injustice currently being done to them."
In a statement, Robinson said that Hagel must amend the military’s nondiscrimination and equal-opportunity policies to cover the LGBT community.
"These documents help establish the command climate for the entire force, and for Senator Hagel to expand them in this way would send a very clear message that the days of treating LGBT service members as second class citizens will be coming to an end under his leadership," said Robinson.
[Photo: Chuck Hagel (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).]