John M. Becker

Hagel Spanks Anti-Gay States On Military Spousal Benefits

Filed By John M. Becker | November 01, 2013 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Chuck Hagel, Department of Defense, DOMA, gay marriage, marriage equality, military families, same-sex marriage

hagel_adf_military_benefits.jpgU.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced last night that he's ordering the chief of the National Guard to "take immediate action" to rein in rogue state National Guard branches that have defied Pentagon orders and refused to provide benefits to same-sex military spouses.

In a speech delivered to the Anti-Defamation League in New York, Hagel noted that this summer, after the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Department of Defense quickly moved to update its policies so that all military spouses received equal treatment and equal benefits, regardless of sexual orientation. These benefits include Department of Defense ID cards.

"We did [this] because everyone who serves our country in uniform, everyone in this country, should receive all the benefits they deserve, and they've earned, and in accordance with the law," Secretary Hagel said. "Everyone's rights must be protected."

He continued: "But several states today are refusing to issue these IDs to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities. Not only does this violate the states' obligations under federal law, but 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. This is wrong. It causes division among our ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD has fought to extinguish..."

Hagel ordered General Frank Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, to meet with adjutants general (the top military officer in a U.S. state) in states that have withheld benefits from same-sex military couples. "The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions," he said.

A senior defense official identified nine rogue states that currently discriminate against troops' spouses on the basis of sexual orientation: Texas, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Indiana. There are 114 Army and Air National Guard sites within those states.

The official said that Secretary Hagel expects the states to resolve the issue, but that he is "prepared to take further action" should they continue refusing to comply.

Rachel Maddow covered the story on her show last night. Watch her report below. (Check out the photo of Michael and me at the 3:36 mark.)

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