Two top Democrats are calling on the Pentagon to insist that state National Guards process benefits for gay couples in compliance with a recent Defense Department directive that requires equal treatment for legally married service members.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (R-Mich.) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Service Committee, issued a letter this week urging Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to press the matter.
“We urge you to issue further guidance on this matter, reaffirming that all married couples must be treated equally,” the lawmakers said.
The Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Oklahoma National Guards have refused to process military benefits for the same-sex spouses, despite the Pentagon directive. Each of the states have cited conflicts with their constitutions, which prohibit recognition of gay marriage.
The issue is setting up a conflict that pits non-compliant states against the Obama administration and gay-rights advocates.
The non-compliant states have said gay spouses can apply for benefits at federal military installations since they would be denied at the state National Guard facilities.
Levin and Smith contend that the National Guards must comply with the Pentagon directive “because they are funded in large part by federal tax dollars.” They noted that gay couples are entitled to federal benefits under this year’s Supreme Court decision that overturned a key portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.
The American Military Partners Association commended the lawmakers for their letter on Thursday.
“This discrimination by the national guard in a few states has gone unaddressed for too long and is only getting worse,” the group’s president, Stephen Peters said in a statement. “These service members and their families deserve better than to be treated poorly by state governors trying to score political points. We again call on the Secretary of Defense for quick and decisive action.”
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