The Texas National Guard announced Tuesday that it will allow same-sex spouses to apply for military benefits at its state facilities under a new agreement with the Pentagon, reversing its previous policy of requiring gay couples to enroll at federal facilities.
The Defense Department will provide federal personnel, funding and equipment to enroll the spouses, ensuring that no Texas National Guard members in state status will have to do the work.
“We look forward to having the ability to process the benefits our service members and their families are entitled to,” Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, a Texas National Guard spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Texas officials had previously said that the state’s National Guard could not process benefits for gay couples under the state’s Constitution, which prohibits recognition of same-sex marriage. Three other states have taken the same position, with all telling same-sex spouses that they would have to apply at federal installations.
The agreement with the Pentagon came one month after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed the head of the National Guard Bureau to work with state officials to resolve issues surrounding gay personnel enrolling for military benefits.
In August, Hagel ordered the Defense Department to treat all legally married couples equally in compliance with the Supreme Court decision this year that required the federal government to recognize legally married same-sex couples for the purpose of benefits.
Gay rights groups have applauded the deal between Texas and the Pentagon.
“All military spouses, regardless of orientation or gender, deserve to be treated with the same dignity, respect and support for their sacrifices in support of our nation, no matter what state they serve in,” said American Military Partner Association President Stephen Peters. “We urge the remaining states who have not yet complied with the Department of Defense policy to do so quickly.”
The other states that refused to process military benefits for gay couples are Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Some states have said they will process benefits for same-sex military spouses even though their constitutions prohibit recognition of gay marriage. They include Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia.
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