Big news from the Pentagon. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has just said this evening that he is directing rogue National Guard organizations in mostly-southern red states to stop actively discriminating against gay service members, and start issuing Pentagon ID cards to their spouses.
In the past few months, the National Guard in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and West Virginia has refused to recognize the same-sex spouses of gay service members because of homophobic local Republican politicians.
When the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act was struck down on June 26, 2013, the Pentagon ordered same-sex spouses to be treated the same as the spouses of heterosexual US service members. The National Guards in the states mentioned above refused to issue ID cards to the spouses of gay service members, arguing that anti-”gay marriage” laws in the states forbade them from doing so.
Secretary Hagel said tonight that those state National Guards are breaking federal law, and DOD policy, and it won’t be tolerated.
The fact that Hagel invoked federal law and DOD policy means that the administration now has multiple avenues for forcing compliance, including going to court.
This is a big deal.
Here’s Hagel tonight at a speech at the ADL in NYC:
The balance between security and civil rights sends an important message to the world. At the Department of Defense, we work to preserve America’s individual liberties as well as defend our freedom.
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 should receive the full benefits they earned, fairly 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 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, 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.
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 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.
Whether they are responding to natural disasters here at home, in their states, or fighting in Afghanistan, our National Guardsmen all wear the uniform of the United States of America. They are serving this country. They – and their families – are entitled to all the benefits and respect accorded to all of our military men and women.