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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel orders National Guard to issue military benefit applications for same-sex couples

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Department of Defense seal
Department of Defense seal
Awhile ago, EqualityOnTrial noted reports that several states were denying military benefits to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court’s decision striking down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in United States v. Windsor and the issuance of guidelines following that decision. The federal government and the Department of Defense issued guidelines on the decision, with the DOD later stating it would construe two sections of the US Code related to military benefits to apply to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. After a federal district court’s decision ruling on another section of US Code, Title 38, the Obama administration announced it would no longer enforce that provision.

Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana all declined to allow military benefits for the national guards of those states. Some of the states have required same-sex couples to obtain the benefits from a federal facility instead.

Now, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is directing national guards in all states to process the military benefit applications:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Thursday evening that he’s directing national guards throughout the country to process benefit applications for troops in same-sex marriages regardless of their state laws.

Hagel made the announcement during a speech before the Anti-Defamation League’s centennial meeting in New York City.

In his speech, the defense secretary spoke out against the decision by certain national guards to deny benefit applications for troops in same-sex marriages, referencing the directive he issued in August indicating spousal benefits for gay troops should be available worldwide after the Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act.

According to the report, an additional five states have refused to allow military benefit applications for same-sex couples to proceed:

A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, counted nine states with national guards that are refusing to process benefit spousal applications for gay troops and said Hagel is “prepared to take further action” if these states don’t comply with Pentagon policy.

Asked by the Washington Blade what this “further action” would be, the senior defense action declined to speculate, but noted military ID cards are processed through federal funds.

“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” the official said. “I’m not going to speculate on our legal options.”

LGBT legal groups had reportedly been discussing legal options.

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