Four National Guards located in southern states have refused to allow spousal benefits to same-sex military couples. The National Guard of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have publicly denied spousal benefits to LGBT couples. In a proactive move, several top Democrats expressed “deep concern” and have pressured the Defense Department to process all military benefits to be inclusive to LGBT spouses.
“Recently, the states of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Oklahoma have refused to issue or have stopped issuing ID cards in state facilities to same-sex spouses of service members,” according to a September 30 letter by Democratic representative Adam Smith and Democratic senator Carl Levin. “Citing statewide bans on marriage for same-sex couples, local policymakers have forced these spouses to travel to federal military installations to apply for their military benefits.”
This is a precedent as it is the first time federal lawmakers have discussed the issue of denying LGBT spousal benefits within the National Guard. Since Smith and Levin are prominent Democrats of both the United States House and Senate, they are pleading for Defense secretary Chuck Hagel to take action.
“We urge you to issue further guidance on this matter, reaffirming that all married military couples must be treated equally, and clarifying the state National Guards, because they are funded in large part by federal tax dollars, cannot choose to ignore this order by denying some lawfully married military couples equal access to the federal benefits to which they are entitled,” the lawmakers wrote.
The South Carolina National Guard has not only denied spousal benefits to LGBT couples, but to all married couples. The American Military Partner Association and the Indiana National Guard have agreed to issue spousal benefits for LGBT couples.
“These service members and their families deserve better than to be treated poorly by state governors trying to score political points,” American Military Partner Association Stephen Peters said in a press release. “We again call on the Secretary of Defense for quick and decisive action.”
The Obama administration has yet to comment on the controversy.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the secretary’s correspondence,” lieutenant commander Nathan Christensen said in a press release. “He responds directly to correspondence received.”
Despite hearing any announcement from the Obama administration, several LGBT advocacy groups commended the letter from the House Democrats.
“The Department of Defense needs to reaffirm that, consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, all married military couples must be treated equally, and state National Guards cannot choose to ignore this order by denying some lawfully married couples equal access to the federal benefits to which they are entitled,” American Civil Liberties Union legislative representative Ian Thompson said in a press release.