6 States Refuse Benefits to Gay National Guard Spouses
Half a dozen states are ignoring a federal decree to grant marital benefits to gay members of the National Guard, claiming the mandate conflicts with state laws banning homosexual unions.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (pdf), which prohibited the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued an order for gay spouses of National Guard members to receive the same federal marriage benefits as heterosexual spouses.
But six states—Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia—have refused to comply, despite the fact that the president has the power to call National Guard units into federal service and that the federal government pays for nearly all Guard funding.
Nevertheless, the states say the units are state agencies that must abide by state laws.
Couples impacted by the refusal can still register for federal marriage benefits, but must travel to federally owned bases to do so, which can mean traveling hundreds of miles away from home.
Hagel has said publicly that the states are violating federal law, but hasn’t said what steps the Defense Department will take to gain compliance. “It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice,” he said, according to The New York Times.
The benefits sought by Guard gay couples include the right of spouses to enroll in the military’s health insurance program and to enter bases unescorted to shop at discounted commissaries.
Of the half-million National Guard members in the U.S., more than 1,000 are part of married gay couples, according to the American Military Partner Association. Defense officials estimate that there are 18,000 same-sex couples in the military, including among retirees.
To Learn More:
Texas and 5 Other States Resist Processing Benefits for Gay Couples (by Richard Oppel Jr., New York Times)
National Guard Rejects Hagel Directive on Same-Sex ID Cards for Military (by Jimmie Gates, Jackson Clarion Ledger)
Oklahoma National Guard will Process Same-sex Spouse Benefits at a Few Federal Facilities (by Silas Allen, The Oklahoman)
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