Eight States, One Problem: No IDs for Same-Sex National Guard Couples

By Nicole Barnard, Staff Writer

Imagine this: your spouse went off to fight for the National Guard and died in combat.  Although, devastated, you are also worried about making ends meet.  Luckily, spouses of military personnel get benefits, you just need to head to the local base.

There is one catch in this scenario: you and your spouse are the same sex.  Therefore you are not granted the identification that allows for benefit claims.

Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia have chosen to defy the pentagon by refusing to offer identification cards to same-sex National Guard families.

“Not only does this violate the states’ obligation under federal law,” said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in an Oct. 31 speech he gave to the Anti-Defamation League in New York. “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.”

Via defense.gov and Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
Via defense.gov and Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Outside the Beltway, an online journal providing political analysis offers an explanation for the states’ reasoning.

“The Supreme Court ruled that the sections of the Defense of Marriage Act that barred benefits to same-sex spouses of service members were unconstitutional. (Afterwards), Texas announced that it would not issue ID cards to same-sex spouses at state National Guard facilities because of a ‘potential conflict’ between state law and Defense Department policy.”

Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan is surprised by the move.

“It sounds like a really good setup for a court case,” said Duncan. “Federal law trumps state law.  All these people need to do is file a lawsuit.”

The eight states claim that their constitutions will not allow them to issue these IDs to members of the military who are not heterosexual.  However, the same could be said for Florida, who have complied.

“In order to meet the state constitution and meet federal intent, we moved the functions from state buildings to federal buildings and we’re in compliance all the way around,” said Florida National Guard public affairs director Lt. Col. James Evans to the Miami Herald. “We want to ensure that everyone is treated equally and all Florida National Guard members get their benefits in the same place.”

Sophomore Cara Messina wonders what these states are trying to accomplish.

“They are not progressive and what has become more and more apparent is that they are often on the wrong side of history.”

“It’s like those (officials) that closed the government because they didn’t like (Obamacare),” said Duncan.  “If they don’t like it, they’re not going to allow it.  They’re going to get overruled … in the meantime, they’re going to hurt a lot of people.”

Assistant Professor of Economics Natalya Shelkova questions the economic benefits for the states by not providing IDs.

“If the money is coming from the federal government (or the) state budget, sure.  If they don’t pay the benefits, I don’t see (why they would do this).”

Economics play a large role. Not only does it affect families on a personal level, but also on an economic one.

“It restricts their access to the military healthcare,” said first year and Guilford Pride PR manager Colin Nollet.  “They are hurting families because of the healthcare benefits and housing policies that these forms of identification offer them.”

“The economic implication is that if you deny spousal benefits to (any) couple, it puts excess burden on the family,” said Shelkova.

*Editors Note* At the time of this article the number of states still refusing the ultimatum by Hagel is at six (Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia).

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