Other benefits now available to same-sex partners and families include family programs, travel on military aircraft when available, child care, legal assistance, and if both are in the military they would be able to request, and be considered for, duty assignments in the same area.
Panetta's decision comes as he nears the end of his tenure as Pentagon chief and on the heels of President Barack Obama's broad call for equal rights for gays during his inaugural speech.
The repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military took effect in September 2011, and since then the Pentagon has been reviewing policies and procedures to see what military benefits can be opened to same sex partners without violating DOMA.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of DOMA in June, but advocacy groups have argued that there are a number of administrative steps the Pentagon could take to treat same-sex military couples more fairly.
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