For the first time the partners of any gay and lesbian servicemembers who may be killed
during the war in Iraq will receive military pensions and other benefits .
Until now only the married partners of military personnel who die
in active service are entitled to a Ministry of Defence pension.
But the new rules mean that both unmarried heterosexual and same sex partners will
be offered full benefits when a loved one is killed in "conflict".
MOD pension will now be awarded to partners where there was a
"substantial relationship" and eligibility would be judged depending on a range
of criteria from financial interdependence, children and shared commitments such
as long-standing joint mortgage arrangements.
"The decision would be based on a broad assessment of the substance of the relationship
and not all of these criteria would need to be met for entitlement to exist," a
statement from the MOD said.
It will not, however, be backdated to include military personnel who died prior
to the conflict in Iraq.
UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has pushed for reform of service pension rules
for some time and a review was currently underway, however action in Iraq made a change urgent.
US Forces do not enjoy the same pension rights under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy
established by President Clinton, though gay partners can be nominated as a "person of interest"
to be informed in the event of a soldier being killed or injured.