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Texas Nat’l Guard withholding spousal benefits for gay troops

Lesbian couple rejected at Camp Mabry facility

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Alicia Butler, Judith Cedville, gay news, Washington Blade, Texas National Guard
Alicia Butler, Judith Cedville, gay news, Washington Blade, Texas National Guard

Alicia Butler (left) and Judith Cedville with daugher, Jordan. (Photo courtesy of Alicia Butler)

Amid celebration for many gay service members on the day that the Pentagon begins to award same-sex spousal benefits, the Texas Military Forces is withholding such benefits for gay troops on the basis that state law prohibits same-sex marriage.

Alicia Butler, an Austin, Texas, attorney, said she was rejected when she tried to register with the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS, the military’s health benefits system, when she applied on Tuesday at Camp Mabry, where her spouse, Judith Chedville, a nurse and Iraq war veteran, is stationed as a member of the National Guard.

“We were told that Texas would not register us into the system and would not issue an ID card for me,” Butler said. “We were told that if she was active duty they would do that for me, but not for a National Guard member because she’s part of the Texas National Guard.”

The explanation the couple was given, Butler said, was that they were denied because she and her spouse are the same gender. Butler said she and her spouse were legally married in California.

Butler added she and her spouse were directed to another facility in Texas that is run by the federal government.

“They told us to go to a different facility, such as Ft. Hood in San Antonio, where the federal government runs the facility, so that we could get the ID card,” Butler said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half drive for me, and we have a five-month-old, so that’s kind of hard.”

But Butler, 43, added even if she and her spouse made that trip, Camp Mabry would still not recognize her as the spouse of Chedville, 38, at that facility.

“We were also told that even if my spouse went there without me and got the registration and that all taken care of, Camp Mabry still would not take my photograph and issue the ID, which is something that’s normally done,” Butler said.

Butler said she was left with the impression that Camp Mabry would continue to deny benefits for guard members with same-sex spouses “indefinitely.”

Tuesday marks the first day that the U.S. armed forces started offering partner benefits, including military IDs, to troops with same-sex spouses after a period of implementation this year. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act, gay troops are now eligible for major spousal benefits, including health and pension benefits as well as equal access to housing.

Butler said she was denied benefits as the American Military Partner Association, an LGBT military group, says it was leaked guidance indicating that Texas Military Forces, or the Texas National Guard, wouldn’t honor the U.S. armed forces’ plan to begin offering partner benefits to gay troops because the Texas Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage.

“The TXMF is a state agency under the authority and direction of the Texas state government,” the guidance states. “Therefore, the TXMF must consider that the Texas Constitution and Texas Family Code 6.204 conflicts with the DoD policy extending benefits to same-sex spouses. Due to this potential conflict, we are unable to enroll same-sex families into DEERs at our state supported facilities until we receive legal clarification.”

Similar to what Butler and Chedville were told, the guidance says troops who are affected by this issue should seek a federal facility to apply for benefits.

“However, the TXMF remains committed to ensuring its military personnel and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled,” the guidance states. “As such, we encourage anyone affected by this issue to enroll for benefits at a federal installation.”

The American Military Partner Association has a photo of the guidance written on an official and letterhead signed by Adjutant General Maj. Gen. John Nichols. It’s posted at the end of this article.

Laura Lopez, a Texas Military Forces spokesperson, confirmed the guidance is accurate, but said she doesn’t known when the legal uncertainty cited in the guidance will be resolved.

“Our goal in the Texas Military Forces is to provide the benefits available to our Soldiers and Airmen under existing federal law and policy, while also adhering to applicable Texas state law,” Lopez said. “The Texas Military Forces will continue to follow state law until legal clarification is determined. It is important to note that Soldiers and Airmen are not being denied these benefits, there are multiple locations throughout the state where they can enroll for same sex benefits.”

Lopez added unlike Fort Hood or Randolph Air Force Base, Camp Mabry receives state funding for property, equipment, and personnel, so personnel and the operation of facilities are subject to Texas state law.

“Despite the legal conflict, the TXMF remains committed to ensuring military personnel and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled,” Lopez said. “As such, we fully support same-sex families enrolling for benefits at the nearest federal installation.”

Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association, said apparent decision to withhold benefits is a “disgrace” for Texas and Texas Gov. Rick Perry “should be ashamed.”

“Our military families are already facing enough challenges, and discrimination from the state of Texas only compounds those challenges,” Peter said. “It’s simply disgusting that Gov. Perry would try to play politics with our military families. Considering the far majority of the funding for the Texas Guard facilities comes from the federal government, I don’t believe they have a leg to stand on.”

Jeremy Johnson, co-chair of the newly formed LGBT military group SPART*A, said withholding benefits to gay troops in Texas amounts to state-sanctioned discrimination and the issue should be resolved immediately.

“The Department of Defense no longer discriminates against same-sex military families and instead embraces them as an important part of the support structure for uniformed members,” Johnson said. “This announcement by Texas Military Forces makes clear that that they are either unwilling or incapable of doing the same. If that is the case, the Department of Defense must ensure that there is no question about the rights of same-sex military families and their ability to access the benefits to which they are entitled.”

According to the Associated Press, the Mississippi National Guard will join Texas in refusing to grant benefits to gay troops with same-sex spouses, but only at state-owned facilities. A spokesperson was quoted as saying Mississippi National Guard offices on federal property would accept the applications.

But the AP also reported that officials in 13 other states that ban same-sex marriage — including Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan and Georgia — said offices would follow the federal directive and process all couples’ applications for benefits the same way.

Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesperson, said he’s unable to confirm the Texas guidance, but said federal military installations in the state will provide a military ID to troops with same-sex spouses.

“All Federal Military installations in Texas will issue IDs to all who provide a valid marriage certificate from a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage,” Christensen said.

Apparent guidance from the Texas Military Forces saying it won't provide partner benefits to troops with same-sex spouses (Screenshot courtesy American Military Partners Association).

Apparent guidance from the Texas Military Forces saying it won’t provide partner benefits to troops with same-sex spouses (Screenshot courtesy American Military Partners Association).

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26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Nathaneal Register

    September 3, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    I wonder if Texas would be so willing to say, "we'll work on it" if all the National Guard members refused orders because, "It might conflict with what the federal government would want us to do at this time and we'll need farther guidance and legal council."

  2. Alan Bone

    September 3, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Texas should just… go away. Forever.

  3. Michael Holtz

    September 3, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I recognize that the installation is Texas owned and operated, but does the Pentagon plan to intervene in any way? For good order and discipline, if nothing else.

    • Steve

      September 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      Operated maybe, but not owned. The federal government pays for pretty much all their stuff and they have to follow federal law. Texas merely implements rules. They have no say in making them.

      The Constitution is very, very clear about this:
      “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress”

  4. Brian Marsiglia

    September 3, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    That's crazy

  5. Heidi Jo Bean

    September 3, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    This illustrates the devolution of the red states. As we try to move forward as a country, the south digs their heels in and goes retroactive to the 1950's. Face it, if they had their way, women, minorities,& LGBT persons would not have the right to vote, let alone the freedom to the pursuit of happiness.

  6. Joel Taylor

    September 3, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Fuck Tejas. Give it back to Mexico.

  7. Joel Taylor

    September 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    TX National Guard receives federal funding, therefore is subject to federal laws and regulations. They are in violation of military policy. POTUS should federalize the Guard to override this.

  8. Steve Williams

    September 3, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Unfortunately, they'd be glad to. They are quite quick to remind everyone that they were once their own nation and don't really have to be team players.

  9. Christen Bustani

    September 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    The Obama Administration recently declared Equal Treatment For All Same-Sex Marriages Under Tax Code no matter even if said married couple moved to a state which does not allow for same sex marriage….so….. it would appear that we have yet another incongruency between state and federal laws to deal with that are in line and backed by that ruling…..and which may help to set precedent and congruency in this arena going forward….

  10. Diane McLaughlin

    September 3, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    If they will not issue the IDs and follow the policy, ALL federal funding should be pulled.

  11. Christian Harrison

    September 3, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    I sense that this might be an important story … but the reporting is utter shite. I actually feel dumber having read it.

    A few questions:

    Was it a denial of benefits or a redirect to a federal facility?
    If the facility in question is a Nat’l Guard facility? And if so, how does that play into the equation, seeing that that the Nat’l Guard units are administered by the states?

    Seriously bad reporting. Shame on the BLADE.

  12. Christian Harrison

    September 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    It’s as if the writer and editor had no idea that the Nat’l Guard units were state-sponsored militias — that’s the only conclusion one can draw, seeing the state issue is not addressed AT ALL.

    • Steve

      September 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      Maybe you should actually read the Constitution some time. The states only run those so-called “militias” under the laws and guidelines set by Congress and the federal government. They don’t pay for them either.

      Then then there is the fact that’s only Texas that’s being stupid about this. That tells you that this is just a manufactured controversy and not true or legal.

      • Christian Harrison

        September 4, 2013 at 1:55 am

        Oy vey.

        I’ve read it. And you made my point for me: the states run the Guard units. And how do you know other states haven’t / aren’t doing this? Anyway … it’s a shite article. Here’s hoping someone willing to put in the legwork writes a better treatment so we can have an educated discussion on the matter.

        (And here’s hoping SCOTUS gets a good case to knock all this silliness to the curb, making marriage equality the law of the land.)

  13. Darwin Akbar

    September 4, 2013 at 12:33 am

    As a pro-equality straight man from a northern state, I am going to open my pop-corn as I watch these southern homophobes are about to have their a–es handed to them by the federal courts. What? Did they expect they can just say 'no' and that's the end of the matter? The disgusting world of phobia and discrimination that they inhabit is about to collapse again, for the second time in 50 years. It is going to be entertaining to watch.

  14. Joey Turman

    September 4, 2013 at 12:46 am

    People like Rick Perry make my ashamed to be from Texas.

  15. Joey Turman

    September 4, 2013 at 12:49 am

    and Texas voluntarily gave up its right to be a sovereign country, believe me not all Texans are like these bigots. There's 4 million or so democrats in Texas and we're steadily gaining the majority.

  16. Joey Turman

    September 4, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Mexico wouldn't take Texas back, gay marriage is legally recognize in Mexico and not all Texans are as stupid and backward as Rick Perry and his neocons.

  17. Andrea Pearson

    September 4, 2013 at 1:03 am

    Fort Hood is in Killeen. Ft Sam Houston is in San Antonio. So male the hour and a half drive. Many guard families have to drive hours to get to military facilities. Yrs, its a shame but its true. Guard isn't active duty.

  18. Michael Bedwell

    September 4, 2013 at 2:24 am

    Once again, there's ugly historic precedent for this—and BECAUSE there is, the DOD should have anticipated it and preemptively done a much better job of ordering Guards to immediately, unequivocally comply. The precedent: though racial integration was completed throughout active duty forces in 1953, as of 1962 there were still TEN segregated state guard units. And those only integrated after the federal government threatened to withhold funding. TexASS Gov. Perry is to gays today what Alabama's George WallASS was to blacks 45 years ago. Eventually he'll fall into the same dustbin of History, but WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE in terms of bigots resisting change in the military and society generally, and there was NO NEED for it to have repeated itself.

  19. David Breshears

    September 4, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    This seems pretty easy – the Court has recognized this as an Equal Protection issue. The Federal Constitution trumps state constitutions. Why isn't isn't this an easy case to overturn Texas' constitutional ban on same sex marriage?

  20. Armand Lavallee

    September 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    First of all, RICK PERRY is not really a governor…nor a real politician…he is A JOKE just like GeeDubbya…for which Texans are so dually noted.
    SECCESSION for Texas is the ultimate desire of every other citizen in this country…with a few exceptions. But really…Texas should belong to MEXICO.

  21. Armand Lavallee

    September 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Just export all of those democrats our way before that happens!!! We could use about 4 million or so good people our neck of the woods.

  22. Carolyn Gray

    September 4, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Steve Williams Excuse me, there are plenty of us here in Texas who have no intention of going anywhere, and are working to change things. It is a hard battle but we're not giving up. Believe in that.

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Liz Cheney: ‘I was wrong’ to have opposed same-sex marriage

Trump critic reverses after public spat with lesbian sister

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Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) (Photo via Facebook)

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), one of handful of Republicans who have criticized President Trump in his actions to attempt to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election, has now said she “was wrong” to have opposed same-sex marriage.

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Liz Cheney has publicly come to regret her former opposition to same-sex marriage after a sea change in public opinion on the issue. For the first time this year, a majority of Republicans, 55 percent, are in support of marriage rights for gay couples and a record high of 70 percent of Americans are behind it, according to a Gallup poll released in June.

Blade readers remember the public spat Liz and Mary Cheney had over same-sex marriage in the 2013, which reflected the division over the issue at the time among conservatives, when the former when first considering a congressional run.

Former Vice President Richard Cheney, the father of the two and considered an early supporter of same-sex marriage, with his spouse Lynne Cheney acknowledged in a statement at the time family conflict over same-sex marriage “is an issue we have dealt with privately for many years, and we are pained to see it become public.”

“Liz has always believed in the traditional definition of marriage,” Richard and Lynne said at the time. “She has also always treated her sister and her sister’s family with love and respect.”

Since that time, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide. Liz Cheney as a member of Congress never had an option to weigh in the issue of same-sex marriage, having been seated well after the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment were debated in Congress.

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President Biden recognized in a statement on Monday the tenth anniversary of the end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that once discharged service members from the military for being openly gay or bisexual.

“Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members,” Biden said. “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all.”

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Technically speaking, the anniversary of Obama signing repeal legislation was in December. Today is the anniversary of defense officials certifying the military is ready, which put an end to the policy.

Read Biden’s full statement below:

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Tenth Anniversary of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. It was the right thing to do. And, it showed once again that America is at its best when we lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

Despite serving with extraordinary honor and courage throughout our history, more than 100,000 American service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—including some 14,000 under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Many of these veterans received what are known as “other than honorable” discharges, excluding them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn.

As a U.S. Senator, I supported allowing service members to serve openly, and as Vice President, I was proud to champion the repeal of this policy and to stand beside President Obama as he signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act into law. As President, I am honored to be Commander-in-Chief of the strongest and most inclusive military in our nation’s history. Today, our military doesn’t just welcome LGBTQ+ service members—it is led at the highest levels by brave LGBTQ+ veterans, including Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly, who served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I was gratified to appoint the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and Afghanistan veteran who joined the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And during my first week in office, I proudly delivered on my pledge to repeal the discriminatory ban on open service by patriotic transgender service members.

On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation. We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.

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HHS awards more than $48 million to HRSA centers in effort to beat HIV/AIDS

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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra hailed the contribution of more than $48 million to beat HIV/AIDS. (photo public domain)

The Biden administration has awarded more than $48 million to medical centers under Health Resources & Services Administration in localities with high incidents of HIV infection as part of the initiative to beat the disease, the Washington Blade has learned exclusively.

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“HHS-supported community health centers are often a key point of entry to HIV prevention and treatment services, especially for underserved populations,” Becerra said in a statement. “I am proud of the role they play in providing critical services to 1.2 million Americans living with HIV. Today’s awards will ensure equitable access to services free from stigma and discrimination, while advancing the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2025.”

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Diana Espinosa, acting HRSA administrator, said in a statement the $48 million will go a long way in reaching goals to beat HIV/AIDS.

“We know our Health Center Program award recipients are well-positioned to advance the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative, with a particular focus on facilitating access to PrEP, because of their integrated service delivery model,” Espinosa said. “By integrating HIV services into primary care, and providing essential enabling services like language access or case management, HRSA-supported health centers increase access to care and improve health outcomes for patients living with HIV.”

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