Defense Secretary Says States “Will Be Expected” To Treat Married Gay Couples Equally

Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the head of the National Guard Bureau to “take immediate action” to ensure that married same-sex couples are treated equally by the states’ National Guard operations.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday ordered the head of the National Guard Bureau to “take immediate action” to ensure that married same-sex couples are treated equally by the states’ National Guard operations.

In a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, Hagel noted that the same-sex spouses of service members have been made eligible for Defense Department ID cards following the Supreme Court’s June decision striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“[S]everal states are refusing to issue these IDs to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities,” he noted, according to prepared remarks of his speech, a reference to Texas and several other states’ decisions that followed not to allow same-sex spouses to receive an ID card at a state facility because of a state law or constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages.

“Not only does this violate the states’ obligations under federal law, 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. It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD has fought to extinguish,” Hagel said.

He continued: “Today, I directed the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.”

A senior defense official identified the states failing to comply, in addition to Texas, as: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

The official said that Secretary Hagel expects the nine states to resolve the issue, adding that he is prepared to take further action should the states not come into compliance with the department’s policy.

“Secretary Hagel has seen military families turned away for no good reason, and he has ordered it to stop immediately. There’s no clearer example of leadership than that,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

The head of the American Military Partners Association was similarly satisfied with the development.

“Secretary Hagel has made it clear the national guard in these few rogue states are failing to live up to their obligations to military families under federal law. We applaud him in showing strong leadership by ordering the national guard in these states to comply and follow lawful direction and DoD policy,” AMPA President Stephen Peters said.

Update: Sec. Hagel’s remarks, as delivered, regarding the National Guard issue:


When the Supreme Court issued its decision on the Defense of Marriage Act this summer, the Department of Defense immediately began working on providing the same benefits to all eligible spouses, regardless of sexual orientation. We did it because everyone who serves our country in uniform, everyone in this country, should receive all the benefits they deserve, and they’ve earned, and in accordance with the law. Everyone’s rights must be protected.

This means that all spouses of service members are entitled to DoD ID cards, and the benefits that come with them. But several states today are refusing to issue these IDs to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities. Not only does this violate the states’ obligations under federal law, but 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. It causes division among our ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD has fought to extinguish, as has the ADL.

Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being declined and denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.

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