New Battlefront: Same-Sex Spouse Benefits and the National Guard
With political leaders blocking the processing of same-sex spouse benefits for members of the National Guard in four states, the American Military Partner Association is working with the American Civil Liberties Union to fight back.
The U.S. military has made great strides in recent years on gay-rights issues, most recently by extending spousal benefits to same-sex partners. There are still bumps in the road, though.
With the difference between state and federal laws leading to problems enacting new policies, a group that’s been focused on the issue is already fighting what has quickly become a new front in the conflict over gays in the military. More details:
The issue: The Pentagon recently changed its policy to grant benefits to all military spouses, regardless of sex, but a few states have actively bucked the trend. Politicians in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have worked to block gay and lesbian National Guard members’ spouses from receiving benefits based on state law not recognizing same-sex marriage. Despite this, the Department of Defense says that no spouses have been denied benefits. However, this comes with hardships for the Guard members’ spouses, who must instead travel to federal installations to apply for benefits—in some cases, long distances away from where they live, NBC News notes. “That sounds a lot like the ‘separate but equal’ situation from the civil rights era,” Chris Rowzee, a spokeswoman for the American Military Partner Association, a group that advocates for same-sex benefits for military families, told the news outlet.
Joining forces: In the wake of the news, AMPA joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union, launching a petition to push the Defense Department to tell National Guard outposts to stop denying federal benefits to the families of same-sex couples. “The practical implications of this resistance for Guard families headed by same-sex spouses are very real,” AMPA President Stephen L. Peters II, said in a statement. “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 four states that have denied same-sex spouses benefits are largely the exception to the rule. National Guard units in states such as Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, and Michigan have offered federal benefits to all Guard spouses despite the differences between state and federal law on same-sex marriage.