WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today directed the chief of the National Guard Bureau to meet with the adjutants general of nine states to resolve the issue of those states denying ID cards to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities.
In a speech at the 100th annual Anti-Defamation League in New York tonight, Hagel said the adjutants general will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and Defense Department policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.
DOD last month began providing same-sex spouse benefits for military members and eligible civilian employees, following the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.
“We did it because everyone who serves our country in uniform … should receive the full benefits they earned, fairly and in accordance with the law,” the secretary said tonight. “Everyone’s rights must be protected.”
A senior defense official speaking on background said that on Aug. 15, Pentagon officials issued a communication noting the system was updated and that ID cards to same-sex spouses were to be issued by all ID card processing stations starting Sept. 3. The official noted that nine states — Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia — are denying equal access for same-sex spouses and are violating DOD and service-level policies for administering same-sex couple and family benefits.
“Secretary Hagel expects these nine states to resolve this issue,” the official said. “He is prepared to take further action should the states not come into compliance with DOD policy.”
In his remarks in New York, Hagel said the denial of ID cards at National Guard facilities unnecessarily forces couples to travel to federal facilities.
“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,” he said. “This is wrong. It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DOD has fought to extinguish.”
The secretary emphasized that members of the National Guard serve their states and the nation and deserve to be treated accordingly.
“Whether they are responding to natural disasters here at home in their states or fighting in Afghanistan, our National Guardsmen all wear the uniform of the United States of America,” he said. “They are serving this country. They – and their families – are entitled to all the benefits and respect accorded to all of our military men and women.”