Stars and Stripes reports on the political hot-potato game the White House and Congress are playing when it comes to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the controversial law that prohibits gay members of the military from discussing or even admitting their sexual orientation. And if you believe Senator Harry Reid, Congress apparently cannot figure out how to approach repeal this law without leadership from the White House.
So the military won’t change its rules until Congress or the President acts, but in the meantime, the Pentagon has been instructed to implement a new president-directed same-sex benefits change for civilian defense employees. That may sound good at first blush, but those who avail themselves on the new benefits may find themselves discharged for violating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:”
The new rules will not cover health insurance, but all federal employees will henceforth be guaranteed sick leave for care of a same-sex partner.
State Department officials already have outlined other benefit extensions for partners of department employees, such as the use of overseas medical facilities, inclusion in cost of living and housing stipends, and family member employment preference rules at overseas offices.
But planned changes don’t contain any privacy or anonymity guarantees. Edmund Burns, spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management, said everyone applying for benefits is essentially “outing” themselves and their partners.
That means a Defense Department employee with a same-sex partner in the military could run afoul of the “don’t ask” rules.
Pentagon officials said they are not aware of any plans to adopt special guidelines shielding benefits information from “don’t ask” investigations.