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Rogue States Refuse To Obey Pentagon Order Over Gay Spousal Benefits

Despite direct orders from the Pentagon, several states said yesterday that they will continue to deny ID cards to gay spouses at state militias.

Reuters reports:

PentagonThe resistance put the Pentagon on a collision course with states that have rejected a Defense Department request, first issued in September, for identity cards to be issued to same-sex spouses so they can begin receiving benefits due to married couples.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, the Republican head of the National Governors Association, called on President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to "stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda," her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said in a statement on Friday.

"The president has made it clear he supports gay marriage. He has the legal authority to order federal agencies to recognize gay marriages. He does not have the legal authority to force state agencies to do so, or to unilaterally rewrite state laws or state constitutions," Weintz said.

Josh Havens, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, said, "Texas Military Forces is a state agency, and as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state which clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman."

Those Republican-led states are Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. Earlier this week The Indiana National Guard reversed it's decision to not issue ID cards to same-sex spouses explaining that “the decision was never made to not process benefits, rather the decision was delayed in order to fully understand the impacts while service members serve in different pay categories.”

On Thursday night, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a stern order to those states.

Like Perry, Republican Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant is one of those who has resisted. The Mississippi Business Journal reports:

Bryant says he does not have the constitutional authority to lift the ban. “The Mississippi Constitution clearly defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and expressly prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions,” Bryant said through a spokesman.

Georgia has issued a similar statement: "The State of Georgia does not recognize same sex marriages and is not authorizing the Georgia National Guard to process the applications for same-sex married benefits at state facilities. Any personnel seeking to apply for same-sex married benefits will be referred to federal facilities."

Chuck Hagel Blasts Rogue States Over Gay Spousal Benefits, Issues Stern Order: VIDEO

Hagel

In a blistering speech delivered to the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday night, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel blasted the rogue states which are refusing to issue spousal benefits at their National Guard facilities, saying their actions are wrong, hurt the military, and further prejudice.

Defense_maddowHagel issued a stern order for those states to comply with federal law or he will take further action.

We've been covering this issue over the past couple of months. South Carolina, Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and West Virginia are the states that are not in compliance with the Pentagon orders..

Here are Hagel's remarks, via the White House:

When the Supreme Court issued its decision on the Defense of Marriage Act this summer, the Department of Defense immediately began working on providing the same benefits to all eligible spouses, regardless of sexual orientation. We did it because everyone who serves our country in uniform, everyone in this country, should receive all the benefits they deserve, and they've earned, and in accordance with the law. Everyone's rights must be protected.

This means that all spouses of service members are entitled to DoD ID cards, and the benefits that come with them. But several states today are refusing to issue these IDs to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities. Not only does this violate the states' obligations under federal law, but their actions have created hardship and inequality by forcing couples to travel long distances to federal military bases to obtain the ID cards they're entitled to.

This is wrong. It causes division among our ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD has fought to extinguish, as has the ADL.

Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being declined and denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.

Whether they are responding to natural disasters here at home, in their states, or fighting in Afghanistan, our National Guardsmen all wear the uniform of the United States of America. They are serving this country. They – and their families – are entitled to all the benefits and respect accorded to all of our military men and women.

Watch Rachel Maddow cover Hagel's order, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Chuck Hagel Blasts Rogue States Over Gay Spousal Benefits, Issues Stern Order: VIDEO" »


Oklahoma Governor Orders National Guard to Stop Processing Military Benefits for Gay Couples

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has ordered the state's National Guard to stop processing military benefits for same-sex couples, the AP reports. Last month, the Pentagon issued new orders offering partner benefits to troops with same-sex spouses.

FallinFallin spokesman Alex Weintz told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the governor was following the wish of Oklahoma voters, who approved a constitutional amendment that prohibits giving benefits of marriage to gay couples.

Because of that prohibition, Weintz said the governor’s legal staff advised the Oklahoma National Guard not to process requests for benefits from gay couples.

With the order, Fallin has joined Texas, Misssissippi and Louisiana in refusing to comply with the order and process the spousal benefits, based on state laws banning same-sex marriage. Yesterday, we reported that Florida is also deciding whether to comply with the Pentagon order.

The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation's premier resource and support network for LGBT military families. released a statement in response:

"Since the governor of Oklahoma has decided to join Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana in playing politics with our military families, we need immediate and decisive action from the Administration and the Defense Department in affirming that all military spouses, regardless of sexual orientation, will be treated equally. Our military families should not be left vulnerable to the prejudice of state governors, and the Defense Department must use it's control of federal funds to stop this discrimination."


ACLU Launches Petition as Florida Decides if It Too Will Deny Gay Troop Benefits

Florida's attorney general won't say if the Florida National Guard will comply with an order form the Pentagon to begin offering partner benefits to troops with same-sex spouses, the Miami Herald reports:

TitshawMaj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., Florida’s adjutant general, wrote Attorney General Pam Bondi seeking the opinion on Sept. 6, essentially asking whether processing gay Guard members’ spouses for benefits would conflict with the state’s constitution, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Friday, Gerry Hammond, senior assistant attorney general, wrote Titshaw that his request for an opinion “provided insufficient information about the connection between the newly announced policy of the United States Secretary of Defense and your official duties as the head of the Florida Department of Military Affairs.”

...Hammond said Titshaw needs to conduct his own analysis first and then spell out for the attorney general’s office “the actions the new federal policy requires of” the Florida National Guard as well as “how any obligations imposed on you by the federal government might conflict with your duties under state law.”

So far, Texas, Misssissippi and Louisiana are refusing to comply with the order and process the spousal benefits, based on state laws banning same-sex marriage.

The states' refusal has prompted the ACLU to launch a petition to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. It reads:

Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana are set to defy your directive to provide federal benefits for the families of same-sex couples in the National Guard. When our service members serve our country at home or abroad, they need to know that their families will get the benefits they need, no matter what. We urge you to use the Department of Defense's authority to put these states in line and enforce equal access to benefits for all military families nationwide.


Senator James Inhofe: Military's Gay Policies Discriminate Against Straight Families

Towleroad recently reported on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's announcement that it would extend benefits including housing and health care to the same-sex spouses of service members. However, rather than providing benefits to declared gay partners who are not married (which was in an earlier plan) the new plan would offer up to 10 days of leave to gay service members so they can travel to states where they may marry legally.

Senator_inhofeSenator James Inhofe (R-OK) is outraged, and sent an angry letter to Hagel demanding to know why straights are being discriminated against and questioned the legal authority of granting the benefit.

August 22, 2013

Dear Secretary Hagel:

I was very disappointed by the recent Department of Defense announcement that it intends to extend benefits to same-sex couples that are not equally afforded to opposite-sex couples.  I write this letter to express my great concern to policy issued on August 13, 2013, especially the intent to extend special uncharged leave benefits to same-sex partners and not to all military couples.  Further, I am unaware of any legal authority to grant uncharged leave to couples seeking to be married.

I appreciate that the Department is reevaluating its policies in light of the recent Supreme Court decision declaring section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.  However, the Department of Defense has failed to notify Congress of its intentions, and I remind the Department of its obligation to keep Congress advised as it relates to plans to modify rights and benefits of our armed forces.  It is necessary that the Senate must first consider the implication of such a policy before the Department of Defense implements a modification of Department of Defense Instruction 1327.06 “Leave and Liberty Policy and Procedures.” 

Mr. Secretary, I firmly support the Department of Defense’s stated commitment to ensuring that all men and women who serve our country and their families should be treated fairly and equally.  However, this change in policy will create disparate treatment between same-sex and opposite-sex couples in our armed forces contrary to the Department’s stated policy.  I look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.

Sincerely,

James M. Inhofe
Ranking Member

Inhofe, who once proudly proclaimed on the Senate floor that his family never had a single gay in it, is behind a bill prohibiting gays from marrying on military bases, doesn't want them marching in uniform in Pride parades, opposed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal, has ties to anti-gay evangelism in Africa, and blasted gay marriage in a campaign ad, couldn't possibly be motivated by homophobia, could he?


Pentagon to Offer 10 Days Paid Leave for Gay Service Members to Travel to States Where They Can Marry

According to a Defense Department memo obtained by the Associated Press, the Pentagon is ready to extend benefits including housing and health care to the same-sex spouses of service members. However, rather than providing benefits to declared gay partners who are not married (which was in an earlier plan) the new plan would offer up to 10 days of leave to gay service members so they can travel to states where they may marry legally.

HagelThe AP reports:

While no final decisions have been made, the memo from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to top defense leaders would reverse an earlier plan that would allow the same-sex partners of military members to sign a declaration form in order to receive limited benefits, such as access to military stores and some health and welfare programs.

"As the Supreme Court's ruling has made it possible for same-sex couples to marry and be afforded all benefits available to any military spouse and family, I have determined, consistent with the unanimous advice of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the spousal and family benefits far outweigh the benefits that could be extended under a declaration system," Hagel wrote.

The plan is scheduled to take effect by the end of August.


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