Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pledged Thursday night to expand benefits and issue dependent identity cards to the same-sex spouses of National Guard members in the nine states that have resisted the repeal of key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the sections of the Defense of Marriage Act that barred benefits to same-sex spouses of servicemembers were unconstitutional. Following the ruling, Texas announced that it would not issue ID cards to same-sex spouses at state National Guard facilities because of a “potential conflict” between state law and Defense Department policy.
In recent weeks, eight other states -- Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia -- have taken action similar to that of Texas.
Defense Department officials said this resulted in same-sex spouses being denied military identification cards at 114 Army and Air National Guard facilities nationwide.
“This is wrong and causes divisions among our ranks,” Hagel told an audience at the Anti-Defamation League in New York, which included his predecessor, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was being honored by the ADL.
Hagel said the actions by the nine states violated their commitments under federal law. Without giving specifics, Hagel said he was prepared to take action against the nine states if they fail to come into compliance with DoD policy on same-sex spouses.
The appearance by Hagel marked a turnaround for the ADL, which was among several Jewish organizations that initially opposed his nomination as defense secretary last year.
Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, had called Hagel’s record on Israel “at best disturbing and at worst, very troubling.” But on Thursday night, Foxman greeted Hagel with a bear hug, called him “my friend,” and said that Hagel had worked tirelessly “to ensure that our ally Israel can live in safety and security.”