POSTED: Monday, February 11, 2013 - 10:49pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 10:04am
EL PASO — More than a year after lifting the ban on gays in the military, The Pentagon has extended certain benefits to gay service members and their families.
Some in the Fort Bliss Community said they believe if someone puts their life on the line to protect our country, they should be given the same benefits.
"This is a milestone saying that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is completely essentially done with," said Sgt. Richard Hernandez.
Sgt. Hernandez is homosexual and has been in the U.S. Army for six years. He met his partner serving in Iraq four years ago, before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed.
"With the repeal of it completely, it was a burden off my shoulders like, 'Hey now I don't have to fake it anymore. I don't have to pretend I'm something that I'm not," said Sgt. Hernandez.
He's taken back from that milestone to another.
The Pentagon extended benefits to the same-sex spouses of service members as well as to the unmarried partners of gay troops.
"I believe this is something that's really great for not only the Army but as well as the gay community," said Sgt. Hernandez.
Benefits include hospital child care services, hospital visits, joint duty assignments and the issuing of military ID cards, which will give same-sex spouses and partners access to on-base commissaries.
Many soldiers feel the same way as Hernandez.
"They've been doing the job they haven't been getting the rewards and so I think it's a great thing for us," said Major Sgt. Joel Peavy.
"Everybody is here to do the job, whether their race, their gender, it's all the same," said Staff Sgt. Travis Gibson.
Fort Bliss officials said it's a step in the right direction.
"A soldier is a soldier. A soldier deploying is facing the same risks as any other soldier regardless of sexual orientation. Therefore, they should have the same rights when they come back here," said Fort Bliss Spokesperson Maj. Joe Buccino.
The Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) still blocks more than 85 other benefits now provided to heterosexual military spouses and their children, most notably medical and dental care, housing allowances, and death benefits.
Sgt. Hernandez believes repealing DOMA is the next challenge.
"Hopefully in the future that will be another hurdle that we can overcome within the military," said Sgt. Hernandez.
The United States Supreme Court is now reviewing DOMA and the pentagon offered its first clear signal it wants that law overturned.
The newly extended benefits should be in place by late August.