There are four states ““ Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Oklahoma ““ in which National Guards won’t process same-sex couples benefits. Oklahoma is the latest to join, actually stopping what they were already doing. In Florida, there are similar questions being asked about whether states with marriage definition laws excluding same-sex couples can do what the Defense Department told the military to do: treat married same-sex couples like they do married heterosexual couples.
The ending of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell marked a major change. It was the Supreme Court decision striking down the core part of the Defense of Marriage Act that was the catalyst for the next big adjustment at the Department of Defense. Last month DOD announced it would provide the same benefits for legally married same-sex couples as done for heterosexual couples. That includes state National Guards. Most are complying. Most.
In Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma ““ and we’ll see what happens in Florida ““ governors and state attorneys general have decided that National Guards can’t process same-sex couples benefits because that would break state law. Each also points to the fact that that servicemember same-gender spouses can go to federal military posts to get this done. Which is true, but requiring that only of same-sex couples isn’t treating everyone equally, and isn’t what the DOD said.
As Oklahoma National Guard spokesman Col. Max Moss explained (via LGBTQ Nation):
“˜If we have a situation where we have a soldier who’s in a same-sex marriage, we’re going to explain to that soldier how they can go about acquiring those benefits. … At this point, that’s directing them to a federal facility.’
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin ordered the National Guard to stop processing the requests because, her spokesman Alex Weintz said:
… the governor was following the wish of Oklahoma voters, who approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 that prohibits giving benefits of marriage to gay couples.
Earlier, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (running for the Republican nominee for governor), responding to a request for direction, told Texas National Guard commander Major General John Nichols that the state Guard could not process such benefits.
Commanders of state National Guards are caught between orders from the Pentagon and their respective governors. For the Electeds in this case, they can be as political as they want. It’s not that easy for the commanders.
And of course, it’s not as easy as it should be for the same-gender couples who will have to take an extra step in securing the mandated benefits.
In Louisiana, LGBTQ Nation reports:
National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Kazmierzak said Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis, the state’s adjutant general, issued the directive (to not process the applications) … .
In Mississippi, the state’s
… National Guard spokesman Tim Powell said the main factor in determining where same-sex spouses could apply for benefits came down to the property owner. Powell said only National Guard offices on federal property would accept the applications … .
Things are still undecided in Florida. From the Miami Herald:
The office of Florida’s attorney general has declined to offer an opinion on whether the Florida National Guard can process benefits enrollment for the spouses of gay troops on state property.
Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., Florida’s adjutant general, wrote Attorney General Pam Bondi seeking the opinion …, essentially asking whether processing gay Guard members’ spouses for benefits would conflict with the state’s constitution … .
Meantime, … the state is advising that gay spouses can sign up at federally controlled military bases … .
At Buzzfeed, Chris Geidner reports on one response, from Lambda Legal.
An LGBT legal group has given the Texas National Guard 10 days to respond to its request that it begin enrolling same-sex spouses of service members into the federal Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System …. .
The move likely is the final step before … Lambda Legal … would go to court seeking to force the Texas National Guard to end the differential treatment.
And, the ACLU and the American Military Partner Association have launched a petition drive, calling on the DOD to take action ““which to this point, they apparently have not ““ regarding the decisions in these four states.
You can see the petition here.
One of the best responses I’ve seen is from a military spouse. Via LGBTQ Nation: (emphasis added)
Alicia Butler said she was turned away from the Texas Military Forces (as the state National Guard is known) headquarters in Austin … and advised to get her ID card at Fort Hood, an Army post 90 miles away. She married her spouse ““ an Iraq war veteran ““ in California in 2009, and they have a 5-month-old child.
‘It’s so petty. It’s not like it’s going to stop us from registering or stop us from marrying. It’s a pointed way of saying, “˜We don’t like you,’ Butler said. …
“˜People say, “˜Why don’t you live somewhere else?” she said. “˜Well, my ancestors came here five generations ago to get away from this kind of stuff, and this is my state and I’m not going to go away.’
“Petty Perry” sounds like a good description to me. I also love what she says in response to the “why don’t you just move” questions. Why should she, her wife, or anyone else who wants to live in Texas, or Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, leave? Staying and fighting is how we’ve made progress.