An LGBT legal group has given the Texas National Guard 10 days to respond to its request that it begin enrolling same-sex spouses of service members into the federal Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) at its facilities. DEERS is the system used to process military benefits, including providing service members and their families with the military ID card that gives them access to military facilities and other services.
The move likely is the final step before the legal group, Lambda Legal, would go to court seeking to force the Texas National Guard to end the differential treatment.
On Friday, however, Lambda Legal — an LGBT legal advocacy group — sent a letter to Major General John F. Nichols, the man responsible for running the Texas National Guard, letting Nichols know the group is representing Alicia Butler, the wife of 1st Lt. Judith Chedville — a member of the Army National Guard — and asking that the Texas Military Forces reconsider the decision not to process Butler’s request to be entered into the DEERS system.
Specifically, the lawyer, Paul D. Castillo, wrote:
The Texas Military Forces apparently takes the position that registering the same-sex spouse of a service member in the federal Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (“DEERS”) and issuing a spousal ID, in fulfillment of the federal government’s legal obligation to provide federal spousal and family benefits to same-sex spouses, somehow would violate provisions of the Texas Constitution and Statutes that purport to deny State recognition to the out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples. This position is particularly dubious given that the “Federal Government provides virtually all of the funding, the material, and the leadership for the state Guard units” … including, specifically, DEERS and federal benefit administration for commissioned officers located in Texas.
Citing the Supreme Court’s June decision striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, he noted, “When voluntarily implementing federally-funded benefits programs on behalf of the U.S. Army National Guard, Texas may not violate the federal civil rights of eligible spouses of military personnel. The discriminatory treatment of lesbian and gay spouses of service members, including those in the Army National Guard in Texas, is illegal.”
“This is just so silly and demeaning,” Butler said. “What they’re saying in effect is, ‘well, we don’t want to give you these benefits, but we have to, so we’re going to make it as inconvenient as possible.’ It’s incredibly petty, and does impose a real hardship that other couples don’t have to bear.”
“This stigmatizing and punitive policy conflicts with DoD policy to treat all military spouses equally and also seems to contradict the governing philosophy of Texas Military Forces to act in the best interests of all service members and families,” Castillo added. “We urge General Nichols to instruct his staff to stop this discriminatory behavior and enroll all eligible spouses of service members for federal benefits.”
Given that nearly every other state, including quite a few that also ban gay marriage, have complied with this directive, it’s hard to see how this could be legal. But then TXMF is taking its cues from Greg Abbott and his see-no-gays strategy, so it’s not exactly a surprise. I’m kind of hoping Lambda has to take TXMF to court – I figure every time Abbott loses a case, an angel gets his wings. But hey, as long as the good guys win in the end, I’ll be happy. See the full letter from Lambda Legal for more.