Friday, October 4, 2013

Pentagon pressured to act on Nat’l Guard units denying gay benefits

From The Washington Blade:  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/10/03/smith-levin-natl-guard-benefits/

By on October 3, 2013

Top congressional Democrats on defense issues are calling on the Pentagon to take action as additional state National Guard units are refusing to process spousal benefit applications for troops in same-sex marriages, according to a letter obtained Wednesday by the Washington Blade.

In a letter dated Sept. 30, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) write to the Defense Department to express “deep concern” over the unwillingness of certain state National Guard units to process spousal benefits for troops in same-sex marriages.

“Recently, the states of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Oklahoma have refused to issue or have stopped issuing ID cards in state facilities to same-sex spouses of service members,” the lawmakers write. “Citing statewide bans on marriage for same-sex couples, local policymakers have forced these spouses to travel to federal military installations to apply for their military benefits.”

The letter is significant because it’s the first time federal lawmakers have weighed in on the issue of National Guard units refusing benefit applications for same-sex couples and because Smith and Levin are the top Democrats on the House and Senate armed services committees.

Smith and Levin urge Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to take action to reaffirm guidance he issued in August saying spousal benefits for troops in same-sex marriages should be available nationwide following the Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We urge you to issue further guidance on this matter, reaffirming that all married military couples must be treated equally, and clarifying the state National Guards, because they are funded in large part by federal tax dollars, cannot choose to ignore this order by denying some lawfully married military couples equal access to the federal benefits to which they are entitled,” Smith and Levin write.

Continue reading at:  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/10/03/smith-levin-natl-guard-benefits/

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