Pentagon to same-sex domestic partners: Get married by New Year’s Eve, or else

“The Department recognizes that the decision to marry is a very personal matter. However, since the June 26, 2015, Supreme Court decision made the option of marriage available to SSDPs, the Department must ensure that both same-sex and opposite-sex couples are treated on an equal basis. As a result, it is no longer necessary or appropriate to extend DoD employment benefits and entitlements to DoD civilian employees’ SSDPs and their dependents.”

If there’s any good news in these documents, it’s that there is one exception to the deadline of December 31. The papers say those employees working in foreign lands overseas or in U.S. territories will still enjoy the benefits for same-sex domestic partners beyond the end of the year, and only “terminate at the conclusion of the employee’s tour of duty abroad or September 30, 2018, whichever occurs first.

But for the rest, this looming deadline will impact members of the American Federation of Government Employees, the union which represents 240,000 DoD civilian employees. “They are the people who ensure the military force is supplied, trained, equipped, fed and provided with quality medical care,” AFGE says on it website. “Our members include tank and aircraft mechanics, commissary workers, ship inspectors, factory workers who manufacture artillery and weapons for our military, auditors, electricians, firefighters and police officers.”

This would be the second time in as many years that the Pentagon has targeted civilians who earn their paychecks working for the military.

Most of those who are expected to be impacted are what the federal government labels “Title 5,” or administrative personnel. Last year, a panel within the DoD recommended Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ask Congress for permission to remove Defense civilians from Title 5 and transfer them to Title 10, which governs military personnel and some present-day DoD civilian workers. That proposal was denounced by AFGE, as a violation of employees’ rights and a flouting of the merit system.

Spokespersons for Secretary Carter and for the union did not respond to inquiries by press time, given the timing. When and if they do respond, this report will be updated.

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