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Hagel tells Texas National Guard to obey the law

Good.

RedEquality

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel late Thursday rebuked Texas and eight other states whose National Guard organizations have refused to process federal benefits given to same-sex couples.

In a speech before the Anti-Defamation League in New York, Hagel revealed that he had ordered the head of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, “to take immediate action to remedy this situation.”

Hagel said commanders “will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and (Pentagon) policy” as 45 other states and jurisdictions now do.

“Not only does this violate the states’ obligations under federal law, 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,” Hagel said in a prepared text of his remarks provided by the Pentagon.

“This is wrong. It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD has fought to extinguish,” he continued. “At my direction, (Grass) will meet with the adjutants general from the states where these ID cards are being denied.”

See here for the background. Texas Military Forces has asked the Attorney General for an opinion on this, which is still pending, and Lambda Legal threatened a lawsuit if they did not comply. As far as I can tell, despite Lambda Legal giving Texas Military Forces ten days to respond to them, no further action has been taken.

The Texas National Guard’s adjutant general, Air Force Maj. Gen. John Nichols, said in an Aug. 30 policy memo his organization’s Camp Mabry headquarters in Austin and other facilities around the state could not enroll same-sex families “until we receive clarification.”

Neither he nor others at Camp Mabry could be reached Thursday night. Josh Havens, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry, said the Guard 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.”

[…]

It wasn’t clear if Hagel’s action would force the Guard to immediately process same-sex couples’ benefits, but his action was hailed by Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, and Eric Alva, a local gay-rights activist.

“Guard members and their families serve this country every day, and it is unacceptable that any state would make it unreasonably difficult for these heroes to access the benefits they are entitled to,” Griffin said.

“If the states had it their way, they would be the ones who still say gay individuals are not allowed to serve in the National Guard,” said Alva, a retired Marine Corps staff sergeant who was the first American GI wounded in the Iraq invasion. “So I think it’s one last defense of the states to try to prevent same-sex couples from getting any benefits, and it’s going to fall. They’re going to lose.”

You would think so, but they won’t go quietly and they won’t go quickly. One way or another this will wind up in court. We ought to tell the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to go ahead and start writing its opinion striking down any injunctions or orders against the state, since we know that’s what they’ll eventually do anyway. May as well save some time and cut right to the chase. BOR has more.

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9 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    The General in charge is between a rock and a hard place on this, I think. I also suspect that there’s not much the Feds can do without activating the Texas units for Federal service, since the Guard units nominally belong to the State. In any case, it proves Rick Perry is still a jerk.

  2. Michael says:

    I suppose it would be a funny issue to get our state constitutional amendment declared unconstitutional over, but if this is the fight they want, this is the fight they get.

  3. Michael says:

    I suppose it would be a funny issue to get our state constitutional amendment declared unconstitutional over, but if this is the fight they want, this is the fight they get.

  4. Michael says:

    I definitely want to hear candidate Greg Abbott’s ruling on this one. Even if he also has no options, he won’t be supporting our troops.

    Also, I think we should all decide right now that Abbott’s campaign headquarters needs to be called “The Abbottoir”

  5. Bayard Rustin says:

    As a non-native of Texas and a gay man, I’m really appalled at this state’s attitude toward homosexuality. What century is the Republican base and its craven politicians living in? And, for a state that prides itself on its business-friendly environment, I wonder how many high-tech firms would want to move here with such Neanderthal thinking. The Dave Wilson/Yolanda Navarro Flores caper is shameful as was Manuel Rodriguez’ attack on Ramiro Fonseca. I have had it with hate!

  6. Burt Levine says:

    Bayard Rustin pls join me in backing Kevin J. Hoffman against Yolanda Navarro Flores.

  7. Doug Hunter says:

    Bayard, why are you so surprised? While not everyone in the state believes it is a sin, a great many of them have been taught since birth that homosexuality is wrong by their churches, their social conventions, and their peers. As such, it should not be surprising that politicians cater to those beliefs just like they cater to anything they think will get them elected or hold office longer.

    As far as how weakly you tied the issue to the state’s business friendly environment, you’ll have to do better. Companies move here because they are handed money hand over fist by the state, counties, cities, and other governing agencies, they are given a lot more freedom from regulatory bureaucracies, and they get to enjoy a low tax environment. Most companies couldn’t care less about the “Neanderthal thinking” as long as they can make a bigger profit. After all, it’s not like the state actively hunts down and prosecutes people for homosexuality.

  8. Bayard Rustin says:

    “After all, it’s not like the state actively hunts down and prosecutes people for homosexuality.”

    Thank you for this. I am eternally grateful for the crumbs.

  9. Steven Houston says:

    He (Doug) has a point dude. Given all the bible thumpers and rednecks, most people expect a hell of a lot worse; it wasn’t that long ago when even relatively gay-safe havens like Houston’s Montrose area were not free of people roaming around bashing gays physically. Progress takes time and considering Houston just re-elected its openly lesbian Mayor (3rd time in a row as Mayor, 9 elections to office in a row), many would consider the progress quite amazing.

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