Texas National Guard bucks Pentagon, denies benefits to same-sex couples

Posted on 03 Sep 2013 at 12:09pm
The Adjutant General – Texas Major General John F. Nichols

The Adjutant General – Texas Major General John F. Nichols

Members of the Texas Military Forces will not be eligible for spouse and family benefits that U.S. military forces may access as of today.

Texas Military Forces include the Texas Army National Guard, the Texas Air National Guard, the Texas State Guard and the Domestic Operations Command. The Adjutant General’s Office said the federal guidelines conflict with the Texas Constitution and encouraged gay and lesbian military to enroll for benefits on a federal base.

Texas Military Forces spokeswoman Laura Lopez confirmed the report putting a different spin on it.

“Any federal benefit already provided heterosexual military spouses will also be offered to same-sex military spouses,” she wrote in an email to Dallas Voice. “Additionally, the Texas Military Forces’ remain committed to ensuring military personnel and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled. As such, we fully support same-sex families enrolling for benefits at the nearest federal installation.”

So gay and lesbian Texas families will get the 20 benefits offered by the Department of Defense. Texas just won’t be participating.

“It’s truly outrageous that the state of Texas has decided to play politics with our military families,” said Stephen Peters, president of American Military Partner Association, a support network for LGBT military families. “Governor Rick Perry should be ashamed. Our military families are already dealing with enough problems and the last thing they need is more discrimination from the state of Texas.”

Brynn Tannehill,  director of Advocacy for SPART*A, a group for actively serving LBGT members of the military, said Texas is the only state she’s aware of that is denying benefits. According to Tannehill, Alicia Butler was turned away while applying for benefits.

The Washington Blade reports that Butler is an Austin attorney whose wife serves in the Texas National Guard and she was turned away at Camp Mabry, the state’s main TXMF facility in Austin.

According to Military Times, spousal and family benefits became available today to same-sex spouses of military personnel. Military ID cards allow spouses and families on base for medical care and access to base stores.

Medical and other expenses for spouses and families are retroactive to June 26, the day the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Housing allowances and moving expenses will be covered for families of gay and lesbian military and will be reimbursed if paid from June 26 as long as the couple was already legally married in one of 13 states or D.C. that offer full marriage. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are not considered marriage for federal benefits.

Read American Military Partners’ full statement below:

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s premier resource and support network for LGBT military families, released the following statement today in response to the decision by the Texas Military Forces (Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, and Texas State Guard) to not comply with Department of Defense policy to extend equal benefits to same-sex military spouses. A copy of the memo from Major General John Nichols is provided below.

“It’s truly outrageous that the state of Texas has decided to play politics with our military families,” said Stephen Peters, president of AMPA. “Governor Rick Perry should be ashamed. Our military families are already dealing with enough problems and the last thing they need is more discrimination from the state of Texas.

Tannehill forwarded the following from the TXMF Adjutant General’s office. The Adjutant General reports directly to Gov. Rick Perry:

Texas Military Forces (TXMF) Implementation of Department of Defense (DoD) Policy Memorandum Extending Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses

EFFECTIVE 03 September 2013 The DoD will begin extending spouse and family benefits, such as identification cards, to same-sex spouses. Enrollment into the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) will begin on 3 September 2013 The TXMF is a state agency under the authority and direction of the Texas state government. Therefore, the TXMF must consider that the Texas Constitution and Texas Family Code 6.204 conflicts with the DoD policy extending benefits to same-sex spouses. Due to this potential conflict, we are unable to enroll same-sex families into DEERs at our state supported facilities until we receive legal clarification. However, the TXMF remains committed to ensuring its military personnel and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled. As such, we encourage anyone affected by this issue to enroll for benefits at a federal installation, which include:

NAS Corpus Christi
PSD Corpus Christi Army Deport (CCAD)
Ft Hood
Copeland Service Center
Ft Hood Military Personnel Center
NAS JRB Visitor Control Center
Fort Bliss
US Army Corps of Engineers
ACOE Building ID Card Section
NAS Kingsville
Lackland AFB
Randolph AFB USAF PKI SPO
Fort Sam Houston
Lackland AFB
Wilford Hall HQ AF ISR Agency CSS 340 FTG ID Card Section
Sheppard AFB Personnel Building
Dyess AFB
Goodfellow AFB
Laughlin AFB
Sheppard AFB

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