Tonight, in a speech delivered to the Anti-Defamation League’s Centennial meeting, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that he has ordered National Guard leadership in states which had denied service to gay and lesbian service members and their families at National Guard facilities to immediately end these discriminatory practices.
“Not only does this violate the states’ obligations under federal law, their actions have created hardship and inequality by forcing couples to travel long distances to federal military bases to obtain the ID cards they’re entitled to,” Hagel said. He later continued, “Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. […] The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.”
According to a senior defense official, this strongly worded public warning carries with it the implicit suggestion that the federal government is prepared to take further action should the states fail to comply.
HRC President Chad Griffin called on the offending states to act immediately following the Secretary’s speech. “Guard members and their families serve this country every day, and it is unacceptable that any state would make it unreasonably difficult for these heroes to access the benefits they are entitled to under federal law,” Griffin said in a statement. “Secretary Hagel has seen military families turned away for no good reason, and he has ordered it to stop immediately. There’s no clearer example of leadership than that."
After news emerged earlier this year that several states refused to enroll Guard members and their families in benefits programs at state facilities, Griffin sent letters to Secretary Hagel asking his department to take action. Griffin also wrote to the governors of the offending states, (Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Oklahoma Governor Mary Falli,Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and Texas Governor Rick Perry) calling on them to end this discrimination—and HRC asked our members and supporters to add their voices too. HRC continues to urge federal agencies to implement the Windsor ruling as broadly as possible.