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.