Same-sex couples entitled to military benefits

Military Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

One of the many returns for serving in the United States military is the ability to share certain benefits with a spouse. These spousal benefits include everything from all-access passes to recreational facilities and exclusive base camp shopping to health care and housing allowances.

The problem, however, is that six states (Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia) are currently refusing to give these benefits to same-sex couples.

These benefits, which also include childcare, legal aid, financial aid, and medical care, can be obtained directly from the government at federal military bases; however, the extra steps same-sex couples must take to acquire these benefits are often demanding and humiliating. According to the New York Times, some benefits could be denied altogether, including services like support for the families of deployed service members.

“Sometimes it’s about the indignities you make people go through,” Alicia Butler, the wife of a National Guard member who was denied her application for a military ID card, said to the New York Times, “It’s a petty way to score political points.”

She makes a good observation. Without a military ID, Butler will be denied access to childcare for the couple’s newborn daughter.

The states that deny service members their rights are not just furthering their anti-gay agenda, but, by doing so, these states are also violating federal law.

Thanks to the new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, the law has mandated that federal marriage benefits be given to gay couples in all branches of the military. The order followed the Supreme Court’s June ruling, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. It was seen as another step toward nationalizing marriage equality. However, six states, with Texas leading the pack, are a major obstacle to this goal.

According to Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, the refusal to grant benefits to same-sex couples on state grounds “protects the integrity of our state Constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people.”

Each state has cited their respective reasons for refusing to grant military same-sex couples benefits. They banned same-sex marriage in the state; however, there are 31 states in the country that ban gay marriage, but still grant military benefits to same-sex couples, because, of course, it is federal law.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas remains stubborn on the issue, and said that his military is “a state agency and as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state, which clearly define marriage as being between one man and one woman.”

In addition to the fact that Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia are violating a federal mandate, they are also violating the rights of service members, not to mention discriminating against an entire subset of the military. By denying benefits that are guaranteed by the government to all service members (regardless of sexual orientation), these states are making a mockery of these people’s dedication to, and sacrifice for, their country.

Hagel himself has spoken out against the states’ actions. “This is wrong,” Hagel said. “It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice.”

While it is good to know that such a high-ranking official supports equal rights in an institution notorious for its mistreatment of its gay members, Hagel needs to use his position to force these states into compliance.

Perhaps he could give them a friendly reminder that it is federal money that funds all of the benefit programs in the first place.

Or perhaps he could give them a less friendly push by withholding those particular necessary funds until state military officials correct their bigoted, demeaning treatment of the people who have dedicated their lives to serving the country.