The Louisiana National Guard has reached a deal with the Pentagon to process military benefits for same-sex spouses despite the state’s constitutional ban on recognizing gay marriage.
The National Guard Bureau will temporarily place some of the state’s National Guard members in a federal status to handle enrollment for same-sex couples, thus avoiding a conflict with Louisiana law.
Louisiana is the latest state with a ban on gay marriage to use the workaround after previously requiring same-sex spouses to enroll for military benefits at federal facilities instead of state installations. Texas made a similar change last week, leaving Georgia and Mississippi as the lone holdouts as of Wednesday.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government must recognize all legal marriages for purposes of federal benefits, regardless of sexual orientation. The Defense Department followed up with a directive in August requiring the military to treat all legally married couples equally.
Despite those actions, several states that do not recognize gay marriage refused to process benefits for same-sex National Guard spouses, instead telling them to enroll at federal installations.
Some states have implemented new policies to ensure equal treatment of service members without allowing state employees to process benefits for gay couples. South Carolina, for instance, now requires all National Guard spouses to apply at federal installations, regardless of sexual orientation.
Some of the other states with gay-marriage prohibitions offered virtually no resistance to the Defense Department directive, agreeing right away to process benefits for all military spouses. Those states included Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia.
Gay-rights groups have commended Louisiana’s recent decision. American Military Partner Association president Stephen Peters said the state’s National Guard officials “finally made the right decision,” but he cautioned that the conflict highlights a broader issue with states that have “codified discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans.”
“This is yet another stark reminder of how far we have yet to go to achieve our nation’s promise of ‘liberty and justice for all,’” Peters said.
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