The ACLU and the American Military Partner Association on Sept. 16 launched a national petition to the Defense Department that calls on it to reaffirm that all married military personnel must be treated equally and that state National Guards cannot deny equal access to same-sex military couples.
In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the section in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that barred the federal government from recognizing legal same-sex marriages. The Obama administration then began the process of updating rules and regulations to comply with the Court’s order, including major shifts in policy at the Pentagon. The Defense Department has said that the spouses of gay service members must be treated the same as the spouses of other service members in regards to rights and benefits.
That order was carried out earlier this month. But governors in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi have refused to process federally paid for benefit applications from married same-sex military couples for benefits at National Guard locations.
“The swift action last month by the Defense Department was a tremendously important breakthrough for lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, their spouses, and families,” said Ian Thompson, ACLU legislative representative, in a news release. “For far too long, due to the senseless discrimination of both ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and DOMA, these service members and their families were treated as second-class citizens despite all of their sacrifices for their country. With these barriers now a thing of the past the onus is on the Department of Defense to ensure that the extension of equal treatment to all who bravely serve, including those who serve in state National Guards, occurs without delay.”
At the AMPA, Stephen L. Peters II, stated, “What these states are doing stands in stark contrast to the actions of the vast majority of states, including other states that do not recognize marriages for same-sex couples, such as Alabama, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming. The practical implications of this resistance for Guard families headed by same-sex spouses are very real. These families are unable to apply for the benefits they are entitled to in the communities where they live and work, and may be forced to travel hundreds of miles just to do something that opposite-sex couples do not have to think twice about. This is not what equal treatment under the law looks like.”
The petition is at aclu.org/secure/stop-denying-benefits-same-sex-couples-serving-national-guard.