After months of reports that National Guard leadership in a handful of states across the country were refusing to administer benefits to LGBT personnel in some cases, a story in the Washington Blade reveals that these rogue actors have been brought into line.

For the first time, national guards in all 50 states will process spousal benefits for legally-married gay and lesbian service members. The news comes after the last hold-out state, Mississippi, dropped its opposition earlier this week.

After the first stories of state non-compliance emerged, HRC President Chad Griffin sent a letter to Secretary Hagel asking his department to take action. Griffin also wrote to the governors who had publicly announced that they would not process benefits for Guard members’ same-sex spouses, (Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin,Oklahoma Governor Mary Falli,  Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.) calling on them to end this discrimination—and HRC asked our members and supporters to add their voices too.

In the end, it’s Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel  who deserves credit for taking decisive action. Hagel delivered a speech in late October in which he demanded that these state national guard outposts heed federal law and Department of Defense policy or risk punitive action. That demand has now produced results all across the country.

In a statement obtained by the Blade, Hagel reiterated his commitment to equality in the military. “All military spouses and families sacrifice on behalf of our country,” he said. “They deserve our respect and the benefits they are entitled to under the law. 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.”

Or, as HRC President Chad Griffin put it in October: “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.  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."

HRC continues to push for broad implementation of this year’s historic Windsor v. United States ruling across the federal government.

Filed under: Marriage, Military

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