The Texas National Guard, in a major and growing snub to the Obama administration and the US Supreme Court, is refusing to provide federal married-housing benefits to gay National Guard members who are legally wed.
We had reported earlier on how a number of mostly-southern states, run by Republican governors, were refusing to abide by a Defense Department order that the spouses of all US service members, gay and straight, be treated equally in the US Armed Forces, following the US Supreme Court striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) this past June, 2013.
That provision of DOMA forbade the federal government from providing federal benefits associated with marriage to same-sex couples, even if those couples were legally married in one of the growing number of US states that recognize gay unions.
With DOMA struck down, the government had no choice but to provide the benefits.
But a number of Republican governors in mostly-southern states have since done all they can to continue discriminating against gay service members.
First, the GOP governors had the National Guard refuse to issue identification cards for the spouses of gay troops, forcing them to go sometimes hundreds of miles to federal facilities, even though straight spouses can simply get their IDs from the nearest National Guard base.
Now, in Texas, according to the American Military Partner Association, the National Guard is refusing to provide federal housing benefits to married gay service members, even if they got their spouse an ID from a federal facility.
What’s even more interesting is the fact that most National Guard spending is paid for by the federal government, so these are federal dollars being denied to these service members families, and that would seem a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down DOMA.
In Mississippi, for example, the federal government pays 99% of the Mississippi National Guard’s budget. Here’s from my earlier reporting:
The Mississippi National Guard annual report for fiscal year 2011 shows that the state of Mississippi appropriated almost $7.8 million for the state National Guard. In that same year, the federal government gave the Mississippi National Guard $679 million. In 2012, the figures were similar: $685 million from the feds, $7.2 million from the state of Mississippi.
“By refusing to treat same-gender military couples equally, the Texas Military Forces, under the leadership of Governor Rick Perry, is creating a hostile climate of discrimination and has sent a strong message that Department of Defense policies and direct orders by the Secretary of Defense will not be followed,” said Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association. “The position the state of Texas has taken is a direct assault on not only military and family readiness, but the integrity and viability of the chain of command. It is also direct evidence of why gay and lesbian service members should be protected under the Department of Defense non-discrimination policy and equal opportunity program.”
Indiana finally relented, and agreed to provide the IDs.
And South Carolina responded by telling the feds, in essence, that if they want blacks swimming in South Carolina pools, South Carolina will simply shut down the pools altogether, so no one can swim in them. South Carolina is now refusing to issue an ID to anyone, requiring all National Guard families, straight and gay, to go to federal facilities, which are not always nearby. No word yet on whether South Carolina is going to balk at providing federal marriage benefits to gay couples.
These GOP governors, and state National Guards, are in the process of significantly eroding the power of the Pentagon and the commander in chief, in addition to quite likely thumbing their collective noses at the Supreme Court to boot. It doesn’t get much more “Civil Rights Era” than this.
But just as bad, Rick Perry and the Republican party are now letting their official intolerance undermine the morale and cohesion, and overall readiness, of the US armed forces. They are in a very real way undermining US national security in favor of their party’s hateful and spiteful dislike of minorities.
Overall, it was bad enough when these handful of states told Secretary Hagel to take a hike. But now, even when a “separate but equal” solution was found to the ID problem, the bigoted Republican states are back at it, poking the Pentagon yet again.
We look forward to Hagel, and President Obama – who tend to have a bigger stick – poking back shortly.