Texas National Guard denies benefits for same-sex spouses

September 4, 2013
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The Texas National Guard has said it will not provide benefits for same-sex couples, despite a Pentagon directive requiring the military to treat all marriages equally.

Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, said in an internal memo that the Texas Constitution and the state’s “Family Code” conflicts with the Defense Department’s policy, which Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in August.

“Due to this potential conflict, we are unable to enroll same-sex families … at our state-supported facilities until we receive legal clarification,” Nichols said. The Texas National Guard clarified in a statement to the Federal Eye that the agency has requested guidance from the state’s attorney general’s office.

(Mark Wilson/Getty Images) - Gay-rights advocates watch a television for news of the Supreme Court's DOMA decision in June.
(Mark Wilson/Getty Images) – Gay-rights advocates watch a television for news of the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision in June.

Hagel’s August directive came in response to a Supreme Court decision this year that overturned a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. The ruling requires the federal government to provide legally married gay couples with the same federal tax, health, Social Security and other benefits that opposite-sex couples receive.

The National Guard Bureau, which handles administration of the National Guard, said it is aware of the Texas policy. “The National Guard Bureau will continue to coordinate with the State of Texas and the Department of Defense regarding a resolution to this important matter,” said agency spokesman Jon Anderson.

Nichols’ memo encourages couples who are affected by the Texas policy to enroll for benefits at one of the state’s 20-odd federal installations. “Despite the legal conflict, the Texas Military Forces remains committed to ensuring military personnel and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled,” the agency said in its statement.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen said Tuesday that “all federal military installations in Texas will issue IDs to all those who provide a valid marriage certificate from a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage.”

Gay-rights advocates criticized the Guard unit’s decision. “It’s truly outrageous that the state of Texas has decided to play politics with our military families,” said Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association. “Our military families are already dealing with enough problems and the last thing they need is more discrimination.”

The Texas National Guard said it has not estimated how many same-sex couples would be affected by the agency’s policy. “As sexual orientation is a private and personal matter, the Texas Military Forces does not track the number of personnel in same-sex relationships or those of gay/lesbian orientation,” the agency said in its statement.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed or e-mail  josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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