Texas defies defense secretary’s order to register same-sex partners

Chuck Hagel

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

After Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered national guards in all states to register same-sex partners of military personnel for identification cards, three states including Texas continue to defy the federal government.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin responded by telling Hagel and President Barack Obama to “stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda.”

When the Department of Defense decided same-sex spouses would receive all of the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses in September, Texas refused to register same-sex partners and directed them to federal facilities. Eight other states followed Texas’ lead.

“Unfortunately, officials from at least three states, including Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia, have so far responded with open and blatant defiance of his [Hagel] order and have stated their intention to continue discriminating against gay and lesbian couples serving in the national guard,” said Stephen Peters, president of American Military Partner Association.

Oklahoma state Sen. Al McCaffrey was in Dallas over the weekend for the Black Tie Dinner. He suggested a way to get his state to comply was to threaten to pull equipment out of the state. While the National Guard is run by the state, most of the equipment it uses, including tanks, planes, guns and even the computer used to register military partners belongs to the federal government, he said.

—  David Taffet

Defense Secretary Hagel to Texas Guard: Process same-sex benefits

Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel

It’s been two months since Alicia Butler was denied federal benefits at Camp Mabry in Austin because the Texas National Guard refused to issue them to same-sex partners.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced late Thursday that he would direct national guards in every state to process benefits applications of same-sex spouses, reiterating his directive from August that spousal benefits for gay troops should be available across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court June decision against the Defense of Marriage Act.

“But several states today are refusing to issue these ID cards to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities,” Hagel said during a speech before the Anti-Defamation League’s centennial meeting in New York City. “Not only does this violate the states’ obligations 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.”

—  Dallasvoice

Hagel vows to push for equal benefits for gay and lesbian military families

Chuck Hagel

Two LGBT groups, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Family Equality Council, are praising Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel after he wrote a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer addressing concerns about his appointment. Boxer endorsed the Hagel nomination on Monday. She had withheld support citing his positions on Israel, women’s and LGBT issues.

With regard to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Hagel wrote:

“I fully support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and value the service of all those who fight for our country. I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members.”

In the U.S. Senate, Hagel received a 0 percent rating with Human Rights Campaign and voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. He was not in the Senate for the enactment or repeal of DADT.

“This commitment is a big step forward for military families with lesbian and gay parents,” said Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy for Family Equality Council. “The Department of Defense has a lot of work to do to ensure that all military families have access to the benefits they’ve earned through service to their country. We look forward to working with the Administration to make sure that all military families, including those with lesbian and gay servicemembers, are protected and respected.”

“Senator Hagel’s commitment is a turning point for our gay and lesbian military families,” said SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson. “His promise to grant these service members the family benefits they have earned demonstrates his deepening grasp of the injustice currently being done to them.”

In its press release, SLDN referred to a 2011 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demanding a list of benefits available to straight military and denied to gay and lesbian military because of DOMA. That list includes issuance of military ID cards for a non-military spouse and access to military hospitals to visit a sick child by the non-military parent. Without a military ID card, a spouse cannot get on a base to visit the child.

While far right wing members of the Senate continue to oppose Hagel’s nomination, Jewish members are beginning to support him. In addition to Boxer, Chuck Schumer of New York expressed support today.

—  David Taffet

Obama taps Hagel despite opposition from LGBT groups, right-wingers

Chuck Hagel

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz probably didn’t expect his first major stand in the U.S. Senate to be firmly on the same side as his LGBT constituents.

But Cruz and LGBT groups — along with right-wing supporters of Israel, some Jewish groups and many Democrats who want a Democrat appointed — are united in their opposition to the nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. Sen. John Cornyn also said he opposes Hagel’s nomination.

Cruz said on Fox News Sunday he couldn’t imagine supporting Hagel because of his anti-Israel positions.

Log Cabin Republicans has been among the most vocal of Hagel’s LGBT opponents. Log Cabin, which took a leading role in the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” took out full-page ads last week in the New York Times and today in the Washington Post opposing the nomination. In 2011, Log Cabin won a lawsuit challenging DADT that resulted in a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordering the federal government to stop enforcing it. The ruling came after repeal legislation passed but before final enactment.

—  David Taffet