The Washington Post

Hagel prompts action on same-sex benefits for National Guard members

At least one state has reversed its decision not to immediately issue military ID cards to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took action this week to address the controversial issue.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque). Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Pentagon chief issued a directive in August ordering the military to treat all legally married couples equally in compliance with the June Supreme Court decision overturning restrictions on federal benefits for gay couples.

But nine states refused to meet the requirement, citing conflicts with their state constitutions.

National Guard is new gay-rights battleground

Hagel on Wednesday directed the head of the National Guard Bureau to meet with the adjutants general of the noncompliant states to resolve the issue. The Indiana National Guard has said it agreed to issue ID cards to same-sex spouses, explaining in a news release that it had simply delayed the move while conferring with the state’s attorney general.

“The decision was never made to not process benefits, rather the decision was delayed in order to fully understand the impacts while service members serve in different pay categories,”said Lt. Col. Cathleen Van Bree, a spokeswoman for the Indiana National Guard.

Defense Department ID cards serve as the linchpin for military benefits and privileges. Without them, military spouses cannot shop at base commissaries or visit the medical facilities where they are entitled to care, for instance.

The non-compliant states have advised gay military spouses to seek ID cards at federal rather than state military facilities.

Hagel said during a speech at an Anti-Defamation League dinner that those states were violating their obligation under federal law, adding that “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.”

“This is wrong,” the secretary added. “It causes division among our ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DOD has fought to extinguish.”

National Guard units have a unique status, falling under the authority of their respective states and the federal government.

The eight states that have still not complied with Hagel’s order are Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Other states that prohibit recognition of same-sex marriage have said they will provide IDs to gay military spouses. They include Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia.

The Pentagon has insisted that its position is legally sound, but the agency has not specified how it will deal with states that refuse to comply with Hagel’s order once Gen. Frank Grass, the National Guard Bureau chief, meets with their adjutants general.

“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” said a defense official who asked to speak anonymously to discuss the matter. “The secretary has directed General Grass to resolve this issue with the [adjutants general]. We’re not going to speculate on legal options at this time.”

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook, or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
We'll have half a million voters in South Carolina. I can shake a lot of hands, but I can't shake that many.
Sen. Marco Rubio, speaking to a group of reporters about his strategy to regain support after a poor performance in the last debate
Fact Checker
Sanders’s claim that Clinton objected to meeting with ‘our enemies’
Sanders said that Clinton was critical of Obama in 2008 for suggesting meeting with Iran. In fact, Clinton and Obama differed over whether to set preconditions, not about meeting with enemies. Once in office, Obama followed the course suggested by Clinton, abandoning an earlier position as unrealistic.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.