Texas National Guard refuses to give lesbian couple federal housing benefit

Posted on 18 Nov 2013 at 3:33pm

 

a7ac9e2460c84a74f94d9e0cdd5c9ce3While the Texas National Guard has been refusing to comply with federal regulations regarding registering same-sex spouses for benefits, a lesbian couple has now been denied a housing allowance.

Texas began refusing to register same-sex spouses on bases several months ago, referring them to federal bases.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced earlier this month that he would direct all state units to register same-sex souses. But several states, including Texas, have continued to refuse to register them.

Now an Austin couple has been denied a housing allowance granted to married opposite-sex couples because the Guard is refusing to recognize the marriage for state or federal purposes.

Cassaundra StJohn, the member’s spouse, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The service member does not want to be identified because of her rank.

Chris Rowzee, spokeswoman for American Military Partner Association, a group that supports LGBT military members and their families, said the couple recently married in New Mexico and while there registered at a federal military base in Albuquerque. But then the service member returned to Texas and applied for the housing allowance “with a dependent rate.”  The benefit is a federal one that married military members are legally entitled to.

“It’s a federal benefit,” Rowzee said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with the state. Their denying it is discriminatory and illegal.”

Rowzee said the denial is “even more serious” than not processing a spouse’s application for an ID card. She said the refusal to give the couple the benefit contradicts what the Texas National Guard has said before, that it wouldn’t issue IDs to gay couples because of the state marriage amendment, but it would still honor federal benefits for those couples.

“This is completely contradictory to their earlier claims that no one was being “denied’ benefits, that it was just an ‘inconvenience’ to have to go enroll at a federal facility,” she said.

Stephen Peters, AMPA president, said the denial of the benefit is only adding to the hostile environment for National Guard members with same-sex spouses in Texas.

“By refusing to treat same-gender military couples equally, the Texas Military Forces, under the leadership of Governor Rick Perry, is creating a hostile climate of discrimination and has sent a strong message that Department of Defense policies and direct orders by the Secretary of Defense will not be followed,” Peters said in a statement. “The position the state of Texas has taken is a direct assault on not only military and family readiness, but the integrity and viability of the chain of command. It is also direct evidence of why gay and lesbian service members should be protected under the Department of Defense non-discrimination policy and equal opportunity program.”

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