The Texas National Guard has refused to process requests for benefits from same-sex couples, and the state of Mississippi has refused to issue benefit applications from state-owned offices. According to the Associated Press, both Texas and Mississippi have said that they will stick by their states’ laws banning gay marriage, despite a Pentagon directive issued last month to provide benefits to same-sex military spouses.
On August 13, the Pentagon announced that it would extend federal benefits to same-sex military spouses and civilian defense employees. The benefits should be available to all legally married couples, regardless of sexual orientation. The benefits were scheduled to begin no later than Tuesday, September 3.
“The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who service in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs,” a Department of Defense statement, released August 14, states.
So far, it seems that only Texas and Mississippi are limiting the ability of same-sex spouses of military personnel to apply for benefits. The other thirteen states whose constitutions ban gay marriage, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Oklahoma, said Tuesday that they plan to follow federal law.
Although the Pentagon’s directive states that benefits apply to couples who are already legally married, Major General John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, reportedly said that because the state’s constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, his Texas agency couldn’t process same-sex couples’ applications.
Pentagon officials have said that Texas appears to be the only state that has chosen to completely disregard federal law and institute a total ban on processing same-sex spouses’ applications.
Texas officials including Governor Rick Perry argue that their state law trumps the federal law, though many believe the Texas Military Forces is more of a federal agency than a state one because it includes the Army National Guard and Air National Guard in addition to the Texas State Guard.
“Gov. Rick Perry should be ashamed,” Stephen Peters, president of the American Military Partner Association told CNN. “Our military families are already dealing with enough problems, and the last thing they need is more discrimination from the state of Texas.”