Current Secretary of Defense Leon “Luscious Puppy Jowls” Panetta is on his way out, but before he hands over command of his office, he’s blowing everyone’s faces off by doing right by gays and women in the military. Here’s what he’s been up to that makes me want to follow behind him with a boom box over my head blasting “So Fresh, So Clean.”
A few weeks ago, Panetta lifted the ban on women in combat positions. This move was rad for two reasons: it finally brought policy up to speed with the long-standing reality that women are constantly in dangerous combat situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also eradicated a glaring stronghold of mandated discrimination in the workplace. Banning women from combat positions is less about what the job entails, and more about the fact that these hundreds of thousands of American jobs were heretofore off-limits to women based solely on their gender. Upholding discriminatory employment practices like that have long since been illegal in the private sector, so it’s nice to see the government finally getting onboard with super obvious principles of workplace equality.
(Side note: Is it a coincidence that the last holdout of our government to embrace basic gestures of social equality — stopping gender discrimination, letting people openly be gay, etc. — is also the branch that does the heavy lifting to uphold the primitive idea that killing each other is still the best way to solve disputes? Hmm.)
Back to business: The Human Rights Campaign says Panetta is seeking to grant approximately 100 benefits to partners, spouses, and families, include housing, legal services, military ID cards, personnel assignments, and right to refuse to testify against spouses. Members of Congress are also pushing to include deployment support, counseling, and relocation/financial management.
The process isn’t without complication. Figuring out which spousal benefits even can be bestowed upon same-sex military couples is presenting a challenge; the Defense of Marriage Act (yeah, remember that piece of shit?) prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay couples. The Clinton-era law has been ruled unconstitutional by regional courts in places like New York and Boston, but has yet to be reviewed in the U.S. Supreme Court. A case challenging DOMA, however, is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court starting in late March. So, ya know, fingers crossed.
Until then, here’s to Secretary Panetta for doing a little house cleaning of discriminatory military policies to make his office look nice for his successor. Someone had good home training, you guys. The next guy, by the way, is Senator Chuck Hagel, who has already vowed to uphold these recent changes.