Less than two months after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel instructed the director of the National Guard Bureau to have all states issue dependent ID cards to spouses and dependents of gay and lesbian servicemembers, that mission has been accomplished, the Pentagon says.
"Following consultations between the National Guard Bureau and the adjutants general of the states, all eligible servicemembers, dependents and retirees --including same-sex spouses -- are now able to obtain ID cards in every state," Hagel said in a statement released Friday.
Hagel drew attention to the fact that several states were refusing to issue the IDs during a speech Oct. 31 before the Anti-Defamation League in New York City. He told the gathering that he had instructed Gen. Frank J. Grass, director of the Guard bureau, to "take immediate action to remedy this situation."
Grass told reporters during a Nov. 9 meeting with reporters that nine states originally refused to issue the IDs, but that four -- Indiana, Florida, Oklahoma, and West Virginia -- had come around by then, leaving Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia as the holdouts.
Only two of the states, however, Indiana and West Virginia, are issuing the cards at all National Guard bases and using the same procedure they use in issuing the cards to spouses and dependents of straight soldiers and airmen.
The others developed workarounds so that it is not the state giving out the IDs, but the federal government.
Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas now put the ID card machine operators in a temporary federal status, as needed, to issue the cards and also to enroll same-sex spouses in the Dependent Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, or DEERS.
Florida, Oklahoma, and South Carolina moved the card machines to Guard facilities on federal installations, where they will also process DEERS enrollments for all service and family members.
Since his confirmation as defense secretary in February, Hagel has not been shy about extending benefits equally to all troops.
When his name first began to surface for the top Pentagon job, some gay rights activists opposed his nomination. He had, as a U.S. Senator, opposed repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which barred gays from serving openly. He had also voted against James Hormel to be U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg because he thought Hormel was "openly, aggressively gay."
Hagel apologized for the comment on Hormel a year ago, and also assured critics he would ensure equality for all servicemembers, regardless of sexual orientation.
When the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, Hagel said the DoD would move quickly to extend same-sex benefits to gay and lesbian servicemembers.
Hagel, in his statement today, said all military spouses and families "sacrifice on behalf of our country.
"They deserve our respect and the benefits they are entitled to under the law," he said. "All of DoD is committed to pursuing equal opportunities for all who serve this nation, and I will continue to work to ensure our men and women in uniform as well as their families have full and equal access to the benefits they deserve."