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WASHINGTON – In response to resistance on the part of several state National Guards to the extension of benefits to the same-sex spouses of military members, the ACLU and the American Military Partner Association have launched a new national petition to the Defense Department that calls on it to reaffirm that all married military personnel must be treated equally, and that state National Guards cannot simply choose to ignore this order by denying same-sex military couples equal access to the benefits to which they are entitled.
Following the Supreme Court's landmark ruling striking down the core of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Department of Defense announced last month that it would extend the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages. In response to this announcement, the governors of Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, acting in their role as commanders in chief of their state National Guards, have refused to process federally paid for benefit applications from married same-sex military couples for benefits at National Guard locations.
"The swift action last month by the Defense Department was a tremendously important breakthrough for lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, their spouses, and families," said Ian Thompson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative representative. "For far too long, due to the senseless discrimination of both ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and DOMA, these service members and their families were treated as second-class citizens despite all of their sacrifices for their country. With these barriers now a thing of the past the onus is on the Department of Defense to ensure that the extension of equal treatment to all who bravely serve, including those who serve in state National Guards, occurs without delay."
"What these states are doing stands in stark contrast to the actions of the vast majority of states, including other states that do not recognize marriages for same-sex couples, such as Alabama, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming," said Stephen L. Peters II, president of the American Military Partner Association. "The practical implications of this resistance for Guard families headed by same-sex spouses are very real. 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."