December 13, 2013 at 11:26 am EST | by Chris Johnson
All nat’l guards now compliant with Hagel edict on same-sex benefits
Chuck Hagel, Department of Defense, Pentagon, gay news, Washington Blade

All state national guards a are complying with an edict from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to process benefits applications for troops in same-sex marriages (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas).

All state national guards are now compliant with an edict from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel requiring them to processing spousal benefit applications for troops in same-sex marriages, according to the Pentagon.

In a statement provided to the Washington Blade, Hagel confirmed that all gay service members can apply for military IDs for their spouses at military installations throughout the country.

“Following consultations between the National Guard Bureau and the Adjutants General of the states, all eligible service members, dependents and retirees — including same-sex spouses — are now able to obtain ID cards in every state,” Hagel said.

A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mississippi, the last remaining hold-out state, came on board sometime this week, although the official didn’t have an exact date for when that happened. The official said Mississippi is adopting a policy similar to Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, which are placing state workers on federal status to process same-sex benefit applications.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling against Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, Hagel announced military spousal benefits — including health, pension and housing benefits — will become available to gay troops.

However, certain state national guards, such as Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi, refused to process the spousal benefits applications from gay troops, citing state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. During an Anti-Defamation League meeting in October, said each of these states must comply and he directed National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Frank Grass to find a way to bring them on board.

One by one, the state national guards announced they would comply with the policy. Texas Military Forces, which had been the first state to announce it wouldn’t process the benefits, announced last month it would come on board. Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi later followed suit.

“All military spouses and families sacrifice on behalf of our country,” Hagel concluded. “They deserve our respect and the benefits they are entitled to under the law. All of DoD is committed to pursuing equal opportunities for all who serve this nation, and I will continue to work to ensure our men and women in uniform as well as their families have full and equal access to the benefits they deserve.”

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization helped in the effort to encourage state national guards to process same-sex benefits by writing letters to the Pentagon as well as governors in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas.

“In the end, it’s Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel who deserves credit for taking decisive action,” Sainz said. “Hagel delivered a speech in late October in which he demanded that these state national guard outposts heed federal law and Department of Defense policy or risk punitive action. That demand has now produced results all across the country.”

Ian Thompson, legislative representative of the American Civil Liberties Union, noted his organization petitioned Hagel to ensure these states comply with federal policy and called the latest news a welcome development.

“This is a welcome announcement, and one that Secretary Hagel deserves credit for making happen,” Thompson said. “The resistance on the part of some governors on extending these benefits to same-sex couples was a grossly unfair violation of federal law that  turned the promise of equal treatment for all military personnel on its head.”

Although all states are now considered compliant, Oklahoma, Florida and South Carolina are conforming to the Hagel edict by directing all spousal benefit applicants — gay and straight — away from state-run installations to federal facilities within those states to avoid conflict between state law and federal policy. These states moved all their ID card machines to federal installations, so they’re still processing benefits at full capacity.

Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partners Association, commended Hagel for ensuring each state national guard is compliant with his edict on same-sex benefits, but said additional action is necessary.

“We applaud the administration and Secretary Hagel for seeing this issue through and ensuring all state national guards are compliant,” Peter said. “However, our military families serving in non-marriage equality states still face discouraging challenges because of the discrimination and exclusion by state governments. We look forward to the day when our military families are treated equally in all 50 states of our nation.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Michael Bedwell

    Bravo, Mr. Secretary. Now, with respect, it is time to heal Thyself. FIRST: Stop treating LGB service members as Second Class Soldiers by arbitrarily denying them the protections against harassment and job discrimination of the DOD Human Goals Charter and the Military Equal Opportunity Program. We know you did not initiate this, your predecessor Mr. Gates did. But you, like your immediate predecessor, Mr. Panetta, are willfully and inexcusably perpetuating it. “The eradication of [DADT] will require more than JUST eliminating one statute. It will require THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ANTI-HARASSMENT POLICIES AND PROTOCOLS FOR DEALING WITH ABUSIVE OR DISCRIMINATORY BEHAVIOR as we transition our armed forces away from a policy of discrimination.” – Barack Obama, November 29, 2007, emphasis mine.

    SECOND: Stop allowing those under you to do far worse than these state asshats did by denying equal benefits to gay married military couples overseas while hiding behind State of Forces Agreements when there is no evidence that such countries object. “It is now the Department’s policy to TREAT ALL MARRIED PERSONNEL EQUALLY.” – Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, August 13, 2013, emphasis mine.

    THIRD: do what your predecessors SHOULD have done to reduce the kind of abuses in the field we keep hearing about, e.g., the use of homophobic language such as “faggot” by drill instructors and the banning of or ridiculous limitations on local Gay Pride celebrations, by forcefully following the open service implementation recommendations of the 1993 RAND Study and its 2010 update commissioned by the DOD and costing taxpayers millions of dollars: “The message of policy change must be clear and must be CONSISTENTLY COMMUNICATED FROM THE TOP. It must be clear to the troops that BEHAVIORAL DISSENT FROM THE POLICY WILL NOT BE PERMITTED. The enforcement system needs to be explicit and consistently applied. Interviews with service members reinforce that the attitudes of military leaders at all levels set the tone for whether antigay harassment is accepted. Military experience with handling of sexual harassment suggests that A CODE OF BEHAVIOR ALONE CANNOT BRING ABOUT COMPLIANCE; leaders, particularly at the unit level, need the resources and training to respond quickly and fairly to PUNISH NONCOMPLIANCE with the new policy. A MONITORING PROCESS SHOULD BE ESTABLISHED to identify any problems early in the implementation process and address them immediately.” Emphasis mine.

    YES, things ARE much better than they were before repeal implementation on September 20, 2011. But that your office is arbitrarily still enforcing TWO classes of service—straight and LGB, a front of the military bus and a back of the military bus—more than two years after implementation is not only unjust it is also reprehensible.

    Thank you.

    • Toni Jones

      Elsie Hampton, your are totally correct. These states don’t have a problem accepting the help from all members of the National Guard when they have disasters within their states. Perhaps the next time there is are bad floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other catastrophes in their states, all married GLBT guard members should request emergency leave to go home and protect their own families since their family members have no benefits if they get hurt.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2017. All rights reserved.
Blade Blast

Get the latest LGBTQ news to your inbox every Thursday!