Resistance to Marriage Equality

From The New York Times:

Published: November 13, 2013

This is wrong.” That was Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s blunt response late last month to states defying his order in August that same-sex spouses of military personnel be given full spousal and family benefits, including health care coverage and housing allowances, on an equal, nondiscriminatory basis.

Mr. Hagel’s order followed the Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. Despite vigorous attempts to coax compliance, the Pentagon says that National Guard units in eight states — Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and West Virginia — are refusing to allow Guard facilities to be used to process applications by same-sex couples and issue the identification card that same-sex spouses need to claim benefits and access medical services and other programs at their home bases.

Mr. Hagel noted that such treatment violated federal law and imposed unwarranted burdens on couples sometimes forced to travel long distances to federal military facilities to obtain the ID cards they are entitled to. Mr. Hagel said further that such disrespectful treatment “causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice.”

The states defend their position by arguing that state laws do not recognize same-sex marriages. But state bans cannot override a valid order from the defense secretary responding to a Supreme Court ruling. The Constitution’s supremacy clause gives precedence to federal law. In fact, state law does not really come into play as the applications, which are federal government forms, are processed by federal employees on federal computer systems.

If the states persist in their defiance, Mr. Hagel will need to consider transferring federal dollars, equipment and National Guard work assignments to bases in other states. Such resistance to civil rights should not stand.

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