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Chuck Hagel, President Obama's pick for defense secretary, supports equal benefits for same-sex military couples.
He made the pledge in a Monday letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., where he also promised to support government-paid abortions for military women in cases of rape and incest and to improve sexual assault prevention programs ordered by Congress.
Boxer endorsed the nomination of the former Republican senator after receiving the letter, which also outlines Hagel's views on Iran, Israel and Hezbollah.
On gays in the military, Hagel said he fully supports the 2010 repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
"I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make," Hagel said, referring to his own combat service in Vietnam. "If confirmed as secretary of defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under law to provide equal benefits to families of all our service members."
His options are limited as long as the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 remains in effect. That law prevents most same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits, including military health care, housing allowances and travel payments.
Boxer also asked about Hagel's support for programs to combat sexual assault in the military and for the change in abortion policy that was ordered as part of the 2013 defense authorization bill.
Hagel said he is "committed to the full implementation of all recent policies and procedures" on sexual assault and will "ensure" the programs have full resources.
On abortion and reproductive rights, Hagel said he "will fully implement all laws protecting women service member's reproductive rights" and additionally pledged to work with Congress and the White House "to ensure female service members continue to be afforded world class health care, including reproductive health care."
"My goal is to ensure that the health care provided to our service members remains contemporary with the care provided to the private citizens of our nation," Hagel said.