© 2013 New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON - The National Guard will distribute identification cards to the gay spouses of its personnel, overriding the resistance of several states that opposed a new military policy permitting such cards to spouses regardless of sexual orientation.
After the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act this summer, the Defense Department announced that it would give the same general benefits to all eligible spouses, including ID cards.
But nine states - Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia - said that the issuing of ID cards violated their state constitutions, and that they would not provide them at National Guard facilities, which are under state control.
The states’ actions rankled Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League this fall, “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. Everyone’s rights must be protected.”
Hagel said Friday that all states were now in compliance with the law. West Virginia and Indiana voluntarily changed their policies to conform with the Defense Department, and some of the other states chose to have the ID cards issued by staff workers who were put under federal authority. Florida, Oklahoma and South Carolina moved their ID card machines into nearby federal facilities.
“All military spouses and families sacrifice on behalf of our country,” Hagel said in a statement. “They deserve our respect and the benefits they are entitled to under the law. All of DoD is committed to pursuing equal opportunities for all who serve this nation, and I will continue to work to ensure our men and women in uniform as well as their families have full and equal access to the benefits they deserve.”
This year, while awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision, the Defense Department moved to extend all spousal benefits to gay military spouses, including base access and day care and health care benefits that had been denied under the Defense Of Marriage Act.
After the Supreme Court overturned that act, those benefits were expanded to include medical and dental coverage and housing allowances.
“We applaud the administration and Secretary Hagel for seeing this issue through and ensuring all state National Guards are compliant,” said Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association, who noted that many state governments still discriminated against gay military families in other ways.