Panetta: Open Service By Gay And Lesbians Has Become ‘Part And Parcel Of What’s Accepted Within The Military’

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said during a press conference on Thursday that a new report has found that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is proceeding “very well,” but refused to give their personal opinions about same-sex marriage.

“No, I have not found any negative effect on good order or discipline,” Dempsey said in response to a question about the DADT policy, before noting that the armed forces had been hesitant to lift the ban on open service because of the uncertainty that accompanied the change. “It’s not impacting on moral, it’s not impacting on unit cohesion, it is not impacting on readiness” Panetta added. “It’s become part and parcel of what they’ve accepted within the military.”

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The Secretary also addressed the military’s policy on marriage, reiterating that gay and lesbian servicemembers can wed in states that recognize their relationships:

REPORTER: As a military officer and the idea that everyone in the service is to be treated equally, does it concern you that some service members are allowed to get married, say on military bases, other service members do not have that right? […]

PANETTA: And with regards to you know, the question on marriage. In that instance it’s very clear that state law controls in that situation. So you know, where state law provides for that, then obviously, that kind of marriage can take place. And if the law prohibits that, then it cannot take place on a military base.

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The Pentagon announced that it will allow military chaplains to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies in September and ruled that “Defense Department property may be used for private functions, including religious and other ceremonies such as same-sex unions, as long as it’s not prohibited by state or local laws.” Republicans have repeatedly sought to change the policy and have attached an amendment to the defense authorization bill outlawing same-sex unions on Pentagon property.

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Panetta also noted that the Defense Department is reviewing which benefits gay couples can qualify for in light of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex relationships.