We sure do love the troops here in Texas, don’t we?
The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits on Tuesday despite a Pentagon directive to do so, while Mississippi won’t issue applications from state-owned offices. Both states cited their respective bans on gay marriage.
Tuesday was the first working day that gays in the military could apply for benefits after the Pentagon announced it would recognize same-sex marriages. The Department of Defense had announced that it would recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that threw out parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Texas and Mississippi appeared to be the only two states limiting how and where same-sex spouses of National Guard members could register for identification cards and benefits, according to an Associated Press tally. Officials in 13 other states that also ban gay marriage — including Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan and Georgia — said Tuesday that they will follow federal law and process all couples applying for benefits the same.
Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, wrote to service members in a letter obtained by the AP that because the Texas Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, his state agency couldn’t process applications from gay and lesbian couples. But he said the Texas National Guard, Texas Air Guard and Texas State Guard would not deny anyone benefits.
Nichols wrote that his agency, which oversees Texas’ National Guard units, “remains committed to ensuring its military personnel and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled. As such, we encourage anyone affected by this issue to enroll for benefits at a federal installation.” He then listed 22 bases operated by the Department of Defense in Texas where service members could enroll their families.
A spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the Texas Military Forces, as a state agency, must obey state law.
Pentagon officials said Texas appeared to be the only state with a total ban on processing applications from gay and lesbian couples. Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said federal officials will process all applications from same-sex couples with a marriage certificate from a state where it is legal.
Alicia Butler said she was turned away from the Texas Military Forces headquarters in Austin early Tuesday and advised to get her ID card at Fort Hood, an Army post 90 miles away. She married her spouse — an Iraq war veteran — in California in 2009, and they have a 5-month-old child.
“It’s so petty. It’s not like it’s going to stop us from registering or stop us from marrying. It’s a pointed way of saying, ‘We don’t like you,” Butler said.
She said she was concerned the state would withhold survivor benefits if something happened to her wife while she was activated on state duty rather than on federal deployment.
“People say, ‘Why don’t you live somewhere else?’” she said. “Well, my ancestors came here five generations ago to get away from this kind of stuff, and this is my state and I’m not going to go away.”
“We don’t like you” is one of the things that this says. Here’s more in the Chron.
The health care, housing and other benefits are retroactive to June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Texas Military Forces said same-sex spouses of members of the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard can enroll for federal benefits at 20 U.S. military sites statewide.
Brent Boller, spokesman for Joint Base San Antonio, confirmed that same-sex couples can apply at Randolph, Lackland and Fort Sam Houston. Their marriage has to have been recognized in the District of Columbia or one of 13 states that allow same-sex marriage.
“All federal installations in Texas are issuing those,” Boller said, referring to U.S. military identification cards and the federal benefits system.
Just not the state facilities, like Camp Mabry in Austin. I don’t know how many of those there are or how big an obstacle that is for affected veterans, but that’s beside the point. Other states that ban gay marriage are capable of complying with this federal directive, just not Texas. It’s petty and small-minded, but also one more piece of evidence for the lawsuit mill. I can’t help but think that the more obstructionist Texas is, the closer it is to getting its ass handed to it in federal court. That day can’t get here soon enough. The Dallas Voice and Texpatriate have more.