Tag Archives: married

Same-sex couples sue for equal parenting rights

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer cleared the way for marriage equality across the United States, but a lot of anti-gay rubbish still litters legislative statutes and bureaucratic regulations.

Same-sex couples in some locales continue to fight for marriage licenses, despite the high court’s ruling. And in some states, married gay couples continue quests for equal treatment as parents, as well as equal treatment in the workplace, health care, education and accommodations.

Fifteen years ago, Mississippi lawmakers banned same-sex couples from adopting children and taking children into foster care. The law, staunchly supported by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, is the only one of its kind in the United States. In early August, four lesbian couples went to federal court and sued Mississippi to overturn the ban.

“The Mississippi adoption ban is an outdated relic of a time when courts and legislatures believed that it was somehow OK to discriminate against gay people simply because they are gay,” the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile, two lesbian couples are suing the state of Florida, which refuses to acknowledge same-sex couples as parents on birth certificates.

“Attorney General Pam Bondi could have avoided yet another costly lawsuit by directing all state agencies to simply comply with the law,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group.

Bondi maintained her defense of Florida’s anti-gay ban on same-sex marriage long after it was clear state and federal judges considered the ban unconstitutional, and she continues to sanction state discrimination against married gay couples.

“Birth certificates are the first official document that represent a newborn baby’s family,” Smith said. “Having an inaccurate birth certificate hinders parents’ ability to take care of their child and access important legal benefits and protections.”

Larry Dupuis, legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin, said continued vigilance is needed, even after the high court’s ruling. “There is still a lot of educating and a lot of litigating to do,” he said.

In Wisconsin, there apparently haven’t been complaints that the state refuses to recognize same-sex couples on birth certificates. Wisconsin also has recognized that same-sex couples have the same right as different-sex couples to adopt children.

“Since the Wolf decision was affirmed, the state has taken the position that same-sex couples can adopt on the same terms as different-sex couples, and there’s no longer a prohibition on adoption,” Dupuis said, referring to the ACLU of Wisconsin’s federal case that secured marriage equality in the state. “Before Wolf, the second-parent adoption had not been allowed in Wisconsin. So that was a big change.”

Labor Dept: Married gay couples protected under Family and Medical Leave Act

Workers in legal, same-sex marriages, regardless of where they live, will now have the same rights as those in opposite-sex marriages to federal job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a spouse with a serious health condition.

The U.S. Labor Department announced a rule change to the FMLA on Feb. 23 in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor. That ruling struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act provision that interpreted “marriage” and “spouse” to be limited to opposite-sex marriage for the purposes of federal law.

“The basic promise of the FMLA is that no one should have to choose between the job and income they need and caring for a loved one,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in announcing the rule change. “With our action today, we extend that promise so that no matter who you love, you will receive the same rights and protections as everyone else. All eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages, regardless of where they live, can now deal with a serious medical and family situation like all families — without the threat of job loss.”

Enacted in 1993, the FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Employees are, for example, entitled to take FMLA leave to care for a spouse who has a serious health condition. Millions of workers and their families have benefited since the FMLA’s provisions became effective and even more American families will benefit as a result of the rule.

The rule change updates the FMLA regulatory definition of “spouse” so that an eligible employee in a legal same-sex marriage will be able to take FMLA leave for his or her spouse regardless of the state in which the employee resides. Previously, the regulatory definition of “spouse” did not include same-sex spouses if an employee resided in a state that did not recognize the employee’s same-sex marriage. Under the new rule, eligibility for federal FMLA protections is based on the law of the place where the marriage was entered into. This “place of celebration” provision allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless of whether the state in which they currently reside recognizes such marriages.

“No legally married same-sex couple should be denied their federal family leave rights simply because they happen to live in a state that disrespects their marriage,” said HRC government affairs director David Stacy. “Until the Supreme Court settles the issue of full nationwide marriage equality this summer, fairness and equality — and the Supreme Court’s decision in the Windsor case — demanded this important change. We applaud the Obama Administration for continuing to ensure all legally married couples have access to the same federal rights, protections and privileges that come with marriage wherever possible.”

Gay couples marry in Kansas, despite legal fight

Gay couples across Kansas headed to county offices on Nov. 13 where judges granted marriage licenses and waived waiting periods after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for same-sex unions over the objections of the state’s attorney general.

Despite a legal tangle involving the state Supreme Court, gay partners moved ahead with wedding plans. One couple married in front of the courthouse in Manhattan, Kansas.

“We got it!” Joleen Hickman said as she held up her marriage license to cheers, The Manhattan Mercury reported.

She and Darci Bohnenblust, her partner of 19 years, said their vows before the Rev. Caela Simmons Wood declared that “by the power of your love, and in the presence of all the witnesses gathered here today, and perhaps most importantly for this moment as recognized by the state of Kansas, I now pronounce that you are legally married.”

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said this week that a separate lawsuit he has filed with the state Supreme Court should prevent gay marriage in all but the two counties that were home to cases covered in the ruling from the nation’s capital. But his office did not respond to questions Thursday as couples beyond Douglas and Sedgwick counties picked up marriage licenses.

Schmidt previously said it’s his duty to exhaust all options to uphold the state’s gay marriage ban, because voters overwhelmingly approved it in 2005.

Schmidt’s lawsuit came after dozens of gay couples in a large suburban county on the Missouri border received marriage licenses last month. One couple was married and about 70 others received licenses before the lawsuit resulted in an order for officials there to stop.

The Kansas Supreme Court issued a statement Thursday announcing that it will begin deliberating gay marriage Monday, but couples and their supporters weren’t waiting to see how that plays out.

Jackie Carter, pastor at First Metropolitan Community Church in Wichita, said a dozen couples applied for, or picked up, marriage licenses and plan to take part in a mass wedding Monday at Wichita’s old city courthouse. Dozens more indicated they would be there, she said, adding that she wouldn’t be surprised to see 100 to 150 people take part.

But as gay couples gained the right to marry in a handful of places, those in Johnson County – where the legal tangle came to a head after a U.S. Supreme Court decision Oct. 5 – were left to wait. Officials in that suburban Kansas City area said they would not move forward on the issue until the state Supreme Court ruled.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Kansas was closely watched for whether justices would change their practice following last week’s appellate ruling that upheld gay marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Those cases now are headed to the high court, meaning the gay marriage issue nationwide could be heard and decided by late June.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to hear cases from three federal appeals courts that had overturned gay marriage bans and several states moved to adopt the practice. Same-sex unions are now legal in 32 states.

“I didn’t think that I’d live long enough to see it happen in this state,” said LuAnn Lewis, who picked up a license to marry her partner of seven years, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Jess Penn and Shanon Fletcher applied for a marriage license at the Lyon County Courthouse, which refused to issue them a license last month, The Emporia Gazette reported.

“The elected officials in this state are working hard to block this yet again,” Fletcher said. “But something that has held true my entire life is, `Love conquers all.’ And eventually it will conquer here. Love will prevail over hate.”

Wisconsin insurers signing up married same-sex couples

Several Wisconsin insurance companies are holding special sign-ups so same-sex couples can add spouses to their health plans.

The special enrollment periods are needed because gays and lesbians who married in Wisconsin were unable until recently to add spouses to their coverage amid the uncertainty surrounding the legal status of their marriages.

People generally can make changes to a health plan during the year only after a “life-changing” event, such as a marriage, divorce or birth or adoption of a child. The typical deadline is 30 days.

Same-sex couples who got married in Wisconsin after a federal judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban in June missed that window as they waited for the case to make its way through federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 6 rejected appeals from Wisconsin and four other states, effectively making same-sex marriage legal in those states.

WPS Health Insurance, Dean Health Plan and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Wisconsin are among the health insurers that are now offering special enrollment periods.

“Basically, what we are trying to do is get everyone in as quickly as possible,” said Christine Witherill, a lawyer with Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corp., the parent of WPS Health Insurance.

Humana also plans to offer a special enrollment period but is working out the details. UnitedHealthcare declined to comment.

The special open-enrollment periods may not apply to employers who self-insure, or pay most of the medical bills of employees and their families. Those companies often contract with health insurers to manage their health plans.

Without the special open-enrollment periods, same-sex couples would have to wait until their next annual open-enrollment periods to add spouses to their plans. Same-sex couples, no matter when they were married, will be able to add their spouses during open enrollment the same as everyone else in Wisconsin.

Woman says she was expelled from college for marrying another woman

A woman said on July 14 that she was expelled from a private, Christian college in suburban Oklahoma City because she married her same-sex partner.

Christian Minard, 22, said she received a letter last week from Southwestern Christian University notifying her of the expulsion after returning from her honeymoon in Las Vegas. Minard said she did not know how the university learned of her March 17 marriage in Albuquerque, New Mexico, though she did say she posted her marriage license on Facebook.

“I’m not friends with anyone from my university. And there have been pictures of us because we’ve been in relationship for 3 1/2 years, and no one ever said word,” Minard said.

University Academic Vice President and Provost Connie Sjoberg said Minard had been a student at the school in the Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany but no longer was. She said federal privacy laws kept her from providing details.

“We are limited in what we can discuss,” Sjoberg said. “We would definitely love to address that (reason for expulsion), but we need permission from the individual to speak in depth.”

Minard admitted that she violated her signed student conduct code, known as a lifestyle principal, which prohibits homosexual relationships. The code also includes prohibitions on smoking, drinking, cheating, premarital sex, discrimination, harassment and profanity.

“I do acknowledge to breaking that covenant,” Minard said, but she said other students break the code without facing consequences.

Sjoberg referred questions about student code violations to the student handbook, which includes the lifestyle covenant.

“We definitely are open to discussing (with students) any situation that we have here at the university,” Sjoberg said. “We are committed to our founding principles and our lifestyle covenant”

The Christian liberal arts university was founded in 1946 by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church as Southwestern Bible College. It became Southwestern College of Christian Ministries in 1981 and Southwestern Christian University in 2001.

Minard said she plans to transfer to a public college in an effort to complete her degree in sports management and hopes to eventually work as strength and conditioning coach.

Judge denies Wisconsin AG’s request for stay in marriage case

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb denied Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s request for a stay of her decision overturning the state’s constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. That means gay couples can continue to get married in the state.

The state also has an appeal before the appeals court in Chicago.

An estimated 555 couples have married in 60 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties since the evening of June 6, when Crabb’s ruling overturned the state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages.

On June 6, Van Hollen filed the emergency request for a stay. The judge did not issue a stay and instead set another hearing date with the state and the ACLU for June 19. A news release from the ACLU of Wisconsin said the hearing was to “review the parties’ proposed injunctive language.”

ACLU Client Marie Carlson, was encouraged. She said, “We practically live our lives as a married couple as it is. We have a child at home now and our other son is in the Air Force. We’re just normal everyday people, nothing special. Why shouldn’t our family have this freedom?”  Marie and her partner, Charvonne Kemp, plan to marry in October.

Earlier in the day, Van Hollen had appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit. The state, in that appeal, argued that Crabb had effectively denied the stay when she failed to respond to the motion on June 6.

In a statement, the attorney general said, “Nearly two and a half weeks ago, I explained to the federal court in Madison that even though a number of courts throughout the country have nullified state bans on same-sex marriages, those same federal courts, and in some cases appellate courts, following the lead of the U.S. Supreme Court, have stayed those rulings pending appeal. Consistent with those court decisions, and prior to her decision on Friday, I asked Judge Crabb to immediately stay any decision she might issue invalidating Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage. Consistent with my concern for certainty and reliability understanding some actors may choose to take actions based on the decision, I asked for an emergency stay immediately following her decision.

“The point of a stay is obvious to most: it preserves the status quo during the appeal process and prevents the introduction of uncertainty, inconsistency, and confusion into Wisconsin’s marriage laws. As I continue to defend Wisconsin’s Constitution and the law remains unsettled, procedures like the stay give reliability to officials’ actions and our citizens’ decisions.”

Van Hollen said the Supreme Court most likely will decide the issue in the next term and “there is absolutely no reason to allow Wisconsin’s county clerks to decide for themselves, on a county-by-county basis, who may and may not lawfully get married in this state. Nor is there any reason to subject any citizen to the stress and legal uncertainty that will result, as it has in other jurisdictions, if they are permitted to immediately contract marriages pursuant to a district court decision that may soon be reversed on appeal.”

Gay couples received marriage licenses in Dane and Milwaukee counties on June 6 and June 7. More than 146 couples received licenses in Milwaukee and more than 130 in Dane County. Not everyone who received licenses got married immediately. And some couples who went to courthouses could not obtain licenses because of lack of documents.

Other couples in other counties have been turned away by clerks awaiting clarification on the court’s intent.

However, the Rock County Clerk’s Office began issuing marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples on June 9. And officials in Brown and Outagamie counties reversed course and also began accepting applications from gay couples for marriage licenses, as did the clerk’s office in Waukesha.

At the clerk’s office in Kenosha County, at least one same-sex couple received a marriage license on the morning of June 9.

As the day went on, the number of counties accepting applications continued to grow to include Dodge, Green, Jackson, Door, Columbia, Buffalo, Douglas, Iowa, Fond du Lac, Green, Juneau, Langlade, Manitowoc and Wood.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the national ACLU filed the federal case on behalf of eight same-sex couples either seeking the freedom to marry in the state or to have the state recognize their out-of-state marriage.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, called Van Hollen’s emergency motion “a regressive and blatantly political attempt to revive a hateful and discriminatory law which violates the ideals of liberty and equality in our Constitution.”

Pocan, who is gay and married his husband in 2006, added, “Society has changed, barriers to equality continue to be broken down; it’s too bad our attorney general is still living in a more hateful day.”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, after hearing Van Hollen had filed with the appeals court, said, “I’d much rather have our state’s attorney general fighting crime than fighting families. His appeal of this case is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars and I urge him to reconsider. Our state’s resources would be much better spend reducing the very real problems of opiate addition, child abuse or gang violence — just to name a few.”

State Rep. Chris Taylor also responded: “The joy experienced by families finally obtaining legal recognition of their relationships, which occurred in Madison and Milwaukee last weekend, so clearly illustrates why the discrimination amendment is a stain on our constitution and violates a person’s most basic freedoms. 

“The Attorney General should focus on the pressing issues of his office, not on defending unconstitutional laws that dehumanize our citizens and treat them like 2nd class citizens.”

Same-sex couples can marry in 19 other states and the District of Columbia. More than 70 lawsuits for the freedom to marry have been filed against the other 31 states.

Larry Dupuis, the legal director for the ACLU of Wisconsin, said on June 9 that he was confident future court rulings would be on the side of justice.

“We are confident that the appeals court will review the case and agree with Judge Crabb’s initial finding that this case is about the constitutional cornerstones of liberty and equality. This is about basic rights for people who are being harmed by the current law,” he said.

On the Web …

www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/wolf-and-schumacher-v-walker  

Jodie Foster, Alexandra Hedison marry

Jodie Foster is a married woman.

The 51-year-old Oscar winner wed girlfriend Alexandra Hedison over the weekend, Foster’s publicist confirmed on April 23. Jennifer Allen offered no other details.

E! was the first to report that Foster tied the knot with Hedison, a 44-year-old photographer based in Los Angeles.

It’s the first marriage for Foster, who came out publicly in a rambling, heartfelt speech at the 2013 Golden Globe Awards, where she accepted lifetime achievement honors.

After saying she planned to make a big announcement that would make her publicist nervous, Foster jokingly revealed that she was single.

“I hope that you’re not disappointed that there won’t be a big coming-out speech tonight,” she said, “because I already did my coming-out about a thousand years ago back in the Stone Age.”

She said celebrities are now expected to reveal they’re gay “with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show,” but her approach had been more personal.

Foster acknowledged longtime partner Cydney Bernard, with whom she has two sons. The couple ended their 20-year relationship in 2008. While Foster never hid the relationship, she kept her sexuality private until the Globes speech.

E! says Foster and Hedison have been dating since last summer.

Hedison, who was previously linked to Ellen DeGeneres, is also an actress with TV credits including “Nash Bridges” and “The L Word.”

Update: Evangelical charity reverses decision to hire married gay Christians

UPDATED: The prominent Christian relief agency World Vision said this week it will hire Christians who are in same-sex marriages, a dramatic policy change on one of the most divisive social issues facing religious groups. And then, under pressure from the Christian right, the World Vision board reversed that decision, according to an announcement on March 26.

Earlier, Richard Stearns, president of the international humanitarian relief group, had announced the hiring change for the United States in a letter to staff. Stearns said the World Vision board had prayed for years about how to handle the issue as Christian denominations took different stands on recognizing same-sex relationships.

“The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of living and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ,” Stearns wrote in the letter.

The agency’s new hiring policy was first reported by Christianity Today magazine.

Based in Washington state and started by evangelicals, World Vision now has an international operating budget of nearly $1 billion and conducts economic development and emergency relief projects around the world.

Last year, the charity reported receiving 18 percent of its annual funding from the federal government. Federal agencies have for several years faced pressure to require any group that receives federal funding to end any hiring restrictions on gays and lesbians.

Stearns had insisted the humanitarian relief group wasn’t responding to any outside lobbying or concerns about government funding.

“I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue,” Stearns said.

But on March 26, the anti-gay National Organizatin for Marriage announced that World Vision’s board had reversed the policy.

“The Christian view of marriage clearly holds that it is the union of one man and one woman,” said Brian Brown, NOM president. “It was for this reason that many were dismayed earlier this week by the news that World Vision was compromising its stance upon this Biblical value by a new policy that would recognize the validity of ‘marriage’ between same-sex persons. Today’s reversal is cause for celebration and congratulation. World Vision has listened to their supporters and congregations worldwide and chosen to stand by the Christian truth of marriage in spite of what must be immense pressure from the radical same-sex ‘marriage’ lobby.”

Louisiana gay rights group sues to overturn anti-gay marriage amendment

Louisiana’s largest gay rights group and four couples are suing to overturn the state’s constitutional ban barring recognizing the out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples.

The lawsuit that includes the Forum for Equality Louisiana as a plaintiff charges that the state’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages violates the U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

The lawsuit also asserts that state officials infringe on the couples’ First Amendment rights by requiring them to claim that they are unmarried on state tax returns.

The New Orleans law firm of Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann filed the suit on behalf of the nonprofit and the couples in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The couples are Jacqueline and Lauren Brettner from New Orleans, Nicholas Van Sickels and Andrew Bond from New Orleans, Henry Lambert and Carey Bond from New Orleans, and Havard Scott and Sergio March Prieto from Shreveport.

The defendants are Louisiana Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield and state Registrar Devin George.

A news release said the basis for the equal protection violation claim is that Louisiana recognizes marriages legally performed elsewhere, including marriages that cannot be entered into inside the state, such as marriages between first cousins or common-law marriages. Louisiana singles out only same-sex marriages for unequal treatment, a violation of the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

The couples are also forced to break Louisiana law requiring them to file their state income tax returns based on their federal returns. Instead of piggy-backing on their joint returns filed with the federal government as all other married couples, same-sex couples must go to the extra expense of creating fictitious federal returns in order to file their state return, and check of “single,” a violation of their First Amendment rights of free speech.

Earlier this month, the ACLU of Wisconsin filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s anti-gay constitutional amendment. The state bars same-sex couples from marrying in the state and refuses recognition to gay couples married out of state.

Presently, more than 40 lawsuits seeking marriage equality have been filed in 20 states.

“Louisiana’s disparate treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex couples who are married outside of Louisiana demonstrates that the purpose of the Louisiana Anti-Recognition Laws is to ‘impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages’ that were lawfully celebrated in other states,” according to the lawsuit, which frequently cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision overturning a portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Dalton Courson, the lead attorney of the Stone Pigman team, said, “Forum for Equality Louisiana and these four couples are bringing this action to challenge the constitutionality of the 2004 Louisiana Defense of Marriage Amendment and laws which deny same-sex couples’ recognition.”

Courson added, “As the Louisiana DOMA neared final passage in the House of Representatives, one lawmaker compared its opponents to descendants of Judas Iscariot. In the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v Texas decision, the justices said that such moral condemnation of same-sex couples and relationships is not a legitimate constitutional justification for legislation. These laws demean and harm same-sex couples and their children.”

Forum for Equality Louisiana executive director SarahJane Brady said, “This is as basic as the Golden Rule. Treating others as one would want to be treated includes extending all the rights and privileges of marriage to lesbian and gay couples who are truly committed to each other. This lawsuit would uphold this very basic principle of freedom for all Louisianans.”

Income tax directives issued by Barfield’s office affect all four of the couples. Two of the couples are parents of children, but the   state refuses to list both parents on official documents.

“The way these laws are written, parents live in fear of what would happen to their child if the only legally recognized parent died,” Courson said. “No one should be forced by the state to lie on their tax returns, either.”

Defense secretary blasts states that deny service members equal benefits

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday sharply criticized U.S. states that are defying the Pentagon by refusing to allow National Guard facilities to issue ID cards that enable same-sex spouses of military members to claim benefits.

“This is wrong,” Hagel said in a speech in New York.

“Not only does this violate the states’ obligation 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,” he said.

Hagel said this is causing division among the military ranks.

In his remarks to an Anti-Defamation League centennial dinner speech, Hagel did not name the states that are defying Pentagon policy on this issue. But the Pentagon has cited nine: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

The Pentagon says there are 114 Army and Air National Guard sites in those nine states that are not providing ID cards to eligible same-sex spouses.

Hagel also used his speech to announce that he has directed the Marine Corps to expedite the manufacture and delivery to Israel of V-22 Osprey aircraft, hybrids that take off and land like a helicopter and cruise like an airplane. It is to be the first overseas sale of the Osprey.

Hagel also offered assurances that the Obama administration’s interest in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program is a way of testing Iranian intentions for a diplomatic solution to a matter that has been in dispute for years.

“If we can find ways to resolve disputes peacefully, we are wise to explore them,” he said. Israel is skeptical of any negotiation with Iran.

Convinced Iran is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons to threaten his country, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Iranians are trying to trick the West into easing economic sanctions while still pushing forward with their nuclear program. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.

Hagel focused much of his dinner speech on the gay rights matter, which was a central issue during the tenure of his predecessor at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta. Panetta, who retired in February, was honored at the dinner for his long career in public service.

Under Pentagon policy that took effect Sept. 3, same-sex spouses of military members are eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex spouses. That decision followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Some states, however, have refused to allow issuance of the necessary Pentagon ID cards on National Guard facilities.

In Oklahoma, for example, Gov. Mary Fallin ordered her state’s National Guard to stop processing requests, making legally married gay couples apply for benefits on federal facilities like Tinker Air Force Base. Oklahoma in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting giving benefits of marriage to gay couples.

Hagel said these states’ policies are unfair. He said he ordered the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to “take immediate action to remedy this situation.”

It was not immediately clear what legal authority Grass has to force the states to change course.

Hagel said he instructed Grass to meet with the adjutants general from the nine states where the ID cards are being denied at state facilities. He said those adjutants general, who work for their states’ governor, “will be expected to comply” with Pentagon policy on this issue.

The American Military Partner Association, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian military members, praised Hagel’s remarks.

“Secretary Hagel has made it clear the National Guard in these few rogue states are failing to live up to their obligations to military families under federal law,” said Stephen Peters, the association’s president. “We applaud him in showing strong leadership by ordering the National Guard in these states to comply and follow lawful direction and DoD policy.”

Defense officials estimate there are 18,000 same-sex couples in the active-duty military, National Guard and Reserves and among military retirees. It’s unclear how many of those are married. The Pentagon policy on equal access to benefits does not apply to unmarried gay partners of military members.

A Pentagon ban on gays serving openly in the military was dropped in September 2011.