September 3, 2013

Texas Guard says it won't follow gay-marriage rules

Tuesday was the first day that gays in the military could apply for marriage benefits that heterosexual couples receive.

The Associated Press

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In this Sept. 26, 2010, file photo, members of the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard participate in a ceremony on the floor of the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. The Texas National Guard is refusing to process requests for benefits submitted by same-sex couples because of the state constitution's definition of marriage. The American Military Partner Association gave a letter to The Associated Press on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, that was written by Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, stating that because the Texas Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, his state agency couldn’t process applications from gay and lesbian couples. (AP Photo/The Daily Texan, Tamir Kalifa, File)

"People say, 'Why don't you live somewhere else?'" she said. "Well, my ancestors came here five generations ago to get away from this kind of stuff, and this is my state and I'm not going to go away."

The American Military Partner Association, which advocates for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people in the armed forces, gave the AP a copy of Nichols' letter.

"It's truly outrageous that the State of Texas has decided to play politics with our military families," said Stephen Peters, the organization's president. "Our military families are already dealing with enough problems and the last thing they need is more discrimination from the state of Texas."

In Florida, where gay marriage is banned, state Department of Military Affairs spokesman Lt. Col. James Evans said he was unaware of any policy that would prohibit accepting a request for processing benefits.

Requests for benefits for same-sex couples in Oklahoma, where gay marriage also is illegal, will be handled like those from heterosexual couples, said Oklahoma National Guard spokesman Col. Max Moss. So far, only one National Guard soldier has inquired about receiving benefits for her same-sex partner, but she didn't have a valid marriage license from a states that authorizes same-sex marriages, Moss said.

"As long as the soldier presents that marriage certificate or license, then we would treat that claim just like we would any other soldier that brings in a marriage license or certificate," Moss said.

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