US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta

Washington - Same-sex partners of members of the US military would now be granted many of the same benefits enjoyed by other military spouses, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta announced the changes that will allow gay and lesbian partners greater access to facilities and the ability to participate in family support programmes, among other benefits. Members of the military can also designate a same-sex partner as a recipient of other benefits, such as hospital visitation or life insurance.

”It is a matter of fundamental equity that we provide similar benefits to all of those men and women in uniform who serve their country,” Panetta said.

He called taking care of the military and their families a core value of the US and said, “Extending these benefits is an appropriate next step under current law to ensure that all service members receive equal support for what they do to protect this nation.”

Not all benefits will be extended to same-sex partners however.

Same-sex partners will still not be provided with military housing or health insurance, but Panetta said he hoped those benefits could be extended in the future. - Sapa-DPA