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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.


Pentagon to Extend Benefits to Gay Service Spouses ASAP

HagelDefense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon will extend health care, housing, and additional federal benefits to the gay spouses of service members as soon as possible, the AP reports:

Defense officials estimate there are 18,000 same-sex couples in the active duty, National Guard and Reserves. It's unclear how many of those are married. The court ruling also could allow same-sex spouses to be buried at Arlington Cemetery. The Pentagon has said that by Oct. 1, it would extend a variety of benefits to same-sex partners, including access to on-base commissaries and some health and welfare programs.


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Addresses Pentagon LGBT Pride Event in Historic First: VIDEO

Hagel

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addressed LGBT service members at the Pentagon's LGBT Pride event yesterday in the first appearance at such an event by a sitting Defense Secretary.

Said Hagel in his remarks:

Our nation has always benefited from the service of gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coast guardsmen, and Marines. Now they can serve openly, with full honor, integrity and respect. This makes our military and our nation stronger, much stronger. The Department of Defense is very proud of its contributions to our nation's security. We're very proud of everything the gay and lesbian community have contributed and continue to contribute. With their service, we are moving closer to fulfilling the country's founding vision, that all of us are created equal.

It has never been easy to square the words of our forefathers with the stark realities of history. But what makes America unique, what gives us strength is our ability to correct our course. Over more than two centuries, our democracy has shown that while it is imperfect, it can change, and it can change for the better.

All of us should take pride in the role the U.S. military has played in this endeavor and continues to play. The military continues to fulfill this country's promise. Our commitment to equality requires us to continue building a culture of respect for every member of the military, our society, and for all human beings.

In his second inaugural address, President Obama reminded us that, quote, "While freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on Earth." Securing those freedoms has required generations of patriots to fight for their fellow citizens, and it has demanded courageous leaders be willing to stand up for what they believe.

Also speaking at the event, White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, and Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning, the highest-ranking openly gay civilian official at the Pentagon.

Said Fanning:

"It was hard to imagine we’d ever be where we are today, but during these 20 years, the military’s gone through the difficult process of opening itself up by providing opportunities to those for whom it was previously denied or constrained, to women, to immigrants looking to prove their loyalty to this country and earn their citizenship, to gays and lesbians."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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