Six States Ignore Pentagon's Gay Spousal Benefits Order

Monday, 11 Nov 2013 04:40 PM

By Cynthia Fagen

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Six states are refusing to comply with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's order that gay spouses of National Guard members be given the same federal marriage benefits as heterosexual married couples, The New York Times reported Monday.

The edict applies to all branches of the military since the Supreme Court in June struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which had prohibited the federal government from acknowledging same-sex marriages.

Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia so far have refused to cooperate, saying there's a conflict with state laws that don't recognize same-sex marriage.

Nearly all of the funding of National Guard units comes from the federal government, and the president can call up state units at any time.

While same-sex married couples can still sign up for the same privileges as heterosexual couples enjoy in the six states, they must sign up on a federal military base to obtain a military spousal identification card, the military's healthcare coverage, a higher housing allowance, and access to lower-priced commissaries.

Going to federal bases "protects the integrity of our state Constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people," Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma told the Times.

Hagel said recently that the six states are violating federal law.

"It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice," he said. Pentagon officials have not said what steps they would take with states that do not fall in line.

Same-sex couples are concerned that some benefits offered on bases, such as support services for relatives of deployed service members, could still be blocked.

In one case, Alicia Butler and her wife, Judith Chedville, a Texas National Guard officer who spent time in Iraq, told the Times they went to Austin's Camp Mabry to apply but were turned down. They were told they would have to sign up for benefits at a federal military base, which was 70 miles away in Fort Hood.

At least 20 federal installations in Texas were processing the benefits, while Camp Mabry and four other Guard bases on state property were not.

"Sometimes it's about the indignities you make people go through," Butler told the Times. "It’s a petty way to score political points."

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