Wisconsin National Guard processing same-sex couple’s benefits request

WiG and AP reports

The Wisconsin National Guard has received its first request from a married same-sex couple seeking benefits.

Sept. 3 was the first working day that gays in the military could apply for equal benefits.

Maj. Paul Rickert of the Wisconsin National Guard said that one request had come in, and the Guard was processing it in full compliance with the Pentagon’s new rules.

That’s in contrast to what’s happening in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

The National Guard in Texas is refusing to process such requests. The commanding general of Texas Military Forces sent a letter saying the Texas Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

In Mississippi, officials said state-owned offices wouldn’t issue applications to married same-sex couples seeking equal benefits.

Mississippi National Guard spokesman Tim Powell said the main factor in determining where same-sex spouses could apply for benefits came down to the property owner. Powell said only National Guard offices on federal property would accept the applications in Mississippi, which also constitutionally bans gay marriage.

“It is our intent to provide benefits and services to our men and women in uniform and at the same time abide by federal and state statutes,” Powell said.

Once the same-sex spouse is approved and obtains an ID, they may go to any base for services.

On Sept. 4, Louisiana National Guard officials said state offices wouldn’t handle applications either. 

“The state of Louisiana does not recognize same-sex marriage, nor does it allow a state officials to take part in an act that recognizes same-sex marriage. We would refer those individuals interested in applying for such benefits to seek guidance at a federal military installation,” said Lt. Col. Michael Kazmierzak.

“Discrimination against our military families in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas is very disturbing,” said Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association, an advocacy group for LGBT servicemembers and their families. “Considering these state guards are primarily federally funded, the White House and Pentagon must take corrective action with these state national guards and their refusal to process same-sex military spouses for benefits.”

Officials in other states that also ban gay marriage – including Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan and Georgia – said  that they will follow federal law and process all couples applying for benefits the same.