Gay military couples not to enjoy benefits

July 17, 2011 - 11:14 AM

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Gay service members from Army soldiers to Air Force officers are planning to celebrate the official end of the military's 17-year policy that forced them to hide their sexual orientation with another official act — marriage.

But their marriage will not be recognized by the military and the couple will be denied benefits the Defense Department gives to heterosexual couples to ease the costs of medical care, travel, housing and other living expenses.

The Pentagon says the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage for federal program purposes as a legal union between a man and woman — prohibits the Defense Department from extending the benefits to gay couples, even if they are married legally in certain states.

Critics say the discrepancy will create a two-tier system.