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Texas National Guard Says If Gay Couples Were Denied Benefits, It Was A Mistake

ButlerChedville

Three gay military couples allege that the Texas National Guard refused to process benefits for them last week.

However, a spokeswoman for Texas Military Forces, the official name for the state's National Guard, told Towleroad the organization's policy is to process benefits for all married couples. Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor said if the same-sex couples were turned away, it was a mistake.  

Back in 2013, the Texas National Guard agreed to begin processing benefits for married same-sex couples, after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the military to treat all married couples equally, pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. Officials in Texas, Oklahoma and several other states had taken the position that processing the benefits applications from gay spouses would violate state laws prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages. 

The states eventually backed down under pressure from the Department of Defense and LGBT groups including Lambda Legal, which represented Alicia Butler and 1st Lt. Judith Chedville, above. However, the American Military Partner Association reported today that three same-sex couples were unable to sign up for benefits last week: 

On Friday, March 13, 2015, three same-sex military couples were denied assistance by the federal military identification card enrollment center at Camp Mabry, the headquarters of the Texas Military Forces, near Austin, Texas. All three couples were told by the center’s employee that they would not be provided service because their marriages were not recognized by the state of Texas, regardless of the fact they were seeking federal military benefits.

The American Military Partner Association (AMPA) strongly condemned the blatant discrimination in a letter to the Adjutant General of the Texas Military Forces, Major General Berry, outlining the situation that occurred and calling for an immediate investigation and clarification.

AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack issued the following statement today: “We are disappointed and outraged over the humiliating and discriminatory treatment these military families endured while simply trying to enroll in the federal benefits to which they are entitled. This issue was raised and, we thought, resolved over a year ago when the Secretary of Defense had to direct the Texas forces to comply with military policy. It’s also further evidence of why sexual orientation should be protected under the Department of Defense non-discrimination policy and equal opportunity program. No service member or military spouse should be treated this way.”

MacGregor, the National Guard spokeswoman, said officials received the group's letter this morning and were looking into the matter today.

"That is not our policy to not process," MacGregor said. "Clearly this has been a mistake that we're trying to clarify. If it happened, it was an error on our part. It was not intentional. That's what we're trying to get to the bottom of right now."

MacGregor said due to sequestration, the National Guard's benefits processing department has been reduced from six employees to one. The one remaining employee has had medical issues, so someone's been filling in for them. 

"Right now because of the cutbacks in our ID section, it has created problems with a lot of folks, honestly, not just same-sex couples," MacGregor said.  

Read the AMPA's full letter to General Berry, AFTER THE JUMP ...   

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Homophobic Navy Chaplain Facing Possible Discharge for Telling Student He Could 'Save' Gay People: VIDEO

Wes_Modder

Pentecostal chaplain Lt. Comdr. Wesley Modder may be kicked out of the Navy because of his outspoken anti-gay religious beliefs, reports Military Times.

Modder was given a “detachment for cause” letter in February after it was decided he is "unable to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment" because of his intolerance towards gay people and premarital sex.

Currently based at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command in South Carolina, Modder is fighting the dismissal with attorneys from the anti-gay Liberty Institute.

The February letter cites several specific incidents in which the chaplain offered inappropriate counseling to sailors in the command.  Specifically, he told a female that she was "shaming herself in the eyes of god" for having premarital sex, told another student that homosexuality was wrong and that "the penis was meant for the vagina and not for the anus” and suggested to a student that he had the ability to "save" gay people.

A number of sailors filed equal opportunity complaints against Modder and commanders agreed that allowing vulnerable sailors to be counseled by him is "a recipe for tragedy.”

Liberty Institute attorney Michael Berry said the effort to fire his client reflects a broader cultural change in the military:

"I think what we are seeing is a hostility to religious expression in the military now. What we're seeing is this new modern, pluralistic, Navy where service members are encouraged to be hypersensitive, especially about issues of faith, marriage and family."

Berry added that Modder admits his anti-gay opinions:

"[He] does not dispute that during private, one-on-one pastoral care and counseling sessions, he expressed his sincerely held religious belief that...sexual acts outside of marriage are contrary to Biblical teaching...homosexual behavior is contrary to Biblical teaching...and homosexual orientation or temptation, as distinct from conduct, is not sin.”

Watch an entirely biased Liberty Institute video, complete with end-times warnings, AFTER THE JUMP...

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U.S. Army Inches Closer to Opening the Door for Out Trans Troops

Army

An All-Army Activity, or ALARACT, notice distributed to U.S. field commanders on Friday stated that the power to initiate and finalize discharges of service members who are transgender has now been transferred from field commanders to the assistant secretary of the Army reports BuzzFeed.

Current Army policies state that transgender people are considered "administratively unfit" for military service. 

RobinsonAllyson Robinson, director of policy for the LGBT military advocacy organization SPARTA, applauded the slight change in direction, but conceded that more changes are needed for transgender service members to serve fully and comfortably without the looming threat of being discharged.

Said Robinson: 

"Today’s action by the Army helps over 6,000 transgender soldiers serving in silence. It also helps their commanders, who are increasingly stymied trying to apply 1970s medical policy to today’s Army.  

"While transgender service members welcome this step, they recognize it is only a stopgap measure aimed at making a failing policy fail less. What they and their commanders need is a comprehensive, Department-level policy review."

This step only affects the Army and doesn’t change the fact that transgender troops will continue to be discharged from the military under current Army policies. Pentagon Spokesperson Nate Christensen confirmed with BuzzFeed News in February that the Defense Department is conducting a "routine, periodic review of the Department’s medical accession policy," which are the medical standards for joining the military. However, Christensen noted that there is no specific review of the Department’s transgender policy, but that the review of the medical policy is broad.

Said Christensen: 

"We routinely review our policies to make sure they are accurate, up-to-date and reflect any necessary changes since the Department’s last policy review. The last review of this (medical policy) was conducted in 2011. The current periodic review is expected to take between 12-18 months; it is not a specific review of the Department’s transgender policy."

Defense Secretary Carter stated over the weekend that he's "very open-minded," with transgender service members openly serving in the military. "They can do what we need them to do for us...I don't think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them," said Carter.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today that President Obama agrees with Carter and endorses his statements regarding the matter.


U.S. Army Court of Appeals Rules Military Can No Longer Refer to Chelsea Manning as a Man

Manning

Private First Class Chelsea Manning will be referred to using feminine and / or gender neutral pronouns in accordance with a ruling handed down by the United States Army Court of Appeals, Politico reports.

Manning, formerly known as Bradley, began her process of transitioning after being convicted for sharing state secrets and violating the Espionage Act of 1917. Manning, faced with a 35 year-long sentence, started agitating for her transition not long after being incarcerated.

With the help of representation from the ACLU, Manning has been pressing the military to assist with her full transition while incarcerated since 2014. In August of last year the ACLU threatened legal action if Manning was not provided with the appropriate hormone therapies necessary to assist in her physical transitioning. Last month Manning's request was officially accepted by the U.S. army at the approval of Colonel Erica Nelson:

"After carefully considering the recommendation that [hormone treatment] is medically appropriate and necessary, and weighing all associated safety and security risks presented, I approve adding [hormone treatment] to Inmate Manning's treatment plan," Nelson explained during one of Manning’s most recent trials."

Going forward it remains to be seen how receptive the U.S. army will be to Manning’s request for full physical reassignment.


This Day in the Life of a Gay Couple on a Military Base Shows How Far We've Come Since 2011: VIDEO

Military

It wasn't long ago (pre-2011) that Lisa and her wife Massy were forced to hide their relationship from Lisa's Army family. With DADT and DOMA now out of the way, however, the two have embarked on a new chapter in their lives - one in which they can live openly as a same-sex couple on a military base.

Said Massy:

Being able to be part of the military family freely and openly and feeling accepted, I'm very happy with that. Asa civilian, as a military wife I feel like they are taking me serious. They are really counting me in. I think allowing gays and lesbians to express who they are freely makes them want to give it their all. 

See their story for yourself, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Trans Former SEAL Team 6 Member Kristin Beck Talks Chelsea Manning, Trans Troops, and Her Run for Congress: VIDEO

Beck

Kristin Beck, the former Navy Seal who was a member of the elite Seal Team 6 and came out as transgender in her book Warrior Princess in 2013, sat down with Thomas Roberts on Out There this week to discuss why she is planning to run against Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Minority Whip, in 2016. 

Beck also addressed the military's recent approval of Chelsea Manning's hormone treatment - with Beck stressing that while she supports the military's move, she continues to see Manning as more of a criminal than whistleblower (Beck has in the past called Manning "a traitor to me personally").

Later, Beck was asked to give her thoughts on Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's statement earlier this week that transgender troops should be allowed to serve.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Trans Former SEAL Team 6 Member Kristin Beck Talks Chelsea Manning, Trans Troops, and Her Run for Congress: VIDEO" »


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