A battle over spousal benefits for guard members and veterans in same-sex marriages has erupted in Texas, turning the recent shift in federal policy into even more of a bipartisan political debate.
According to the Texas Tribune, 16 Democratic lawmakers are asking the Texas National Guard to reconsider its current ban on allowing same-sex military couples and veterans from receiving spousal benefits. Military health insurance, social security assistance and identification cards are among the benefits now available to married same-sex couples, under the new directive from the Department of Defense.
The policy change comes several months after the Supreme Court issued an unprecedented ruling last June, striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that blocked federal agencies from recognizing same-sex marriage. However, the Texas National Guard is an agent of both the state and federal governments, answering to both the president and the state's governor. This dual role allowed the guard to ignore the DoD's policy change and act according to the state. Texas currently has a Family Code that bans same-sex couples from receiving marriage licenses.
Currently, Texas National Guard members can only enroll in the veterans benefits programs that are operated out of federal campuses. In their letter, the 16 lawmakers pressed Maj. Gen. John Nichols to allow state-operated institutions to grant these services.
The Texas National Guard is not the only one refusing to process claims for same-sex military spouses and veterans. NPR reported that the Mississippi National Guard will not grant spousal benefits to same-sex couples unless they apply for a marriage license on federal property.