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The Lay of the Land Post-Windsor and –Perry

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

With marriage equality now coming to Illinois and Hawaii, nearly 40% of the country lives in a marriage equality state. But just how federal and state governments will navigate the still-unsettled reality (and consequences) of marriage equality remains an open question.

Although Windsor invalidated Section 3 of DOMA, it left Section 2 in place, which allows states to refuse to recognize same gender marriages performed in other states. Marriages are not judgments or orders, and are therefore not entitled to equality under constitutional principles of full faith and credit among the states. This has the potential to impact benefits, parental rights, divorce, and other issues for same-sex couples depending on where they marry and where they live.

Read the full story on the MEUSA news blog…

USA: Rogue States Fight Back Over Pentagon National Guard Orders

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

US Department of DefenseIt looks like some states are not going to quietly go along with the Secretary of Defense’s orders to process benefits for same sex partners of National Guard members.

Joe.My.God reports:

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that he was ordering all National Guard units to comply with Pentagon policy regarding spousal benefits for gay soldiers. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin may go to court to stop him. Alex Weintz, spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, said she “is working with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to evaluate the legal options available to the Oklahoma National Guard.” Weintz stopped short of saying Oklahoma will refuse to follow Hagel’s order, but made it clear Fallin would not go along with it willingly. “Gov. Fallin is calling on President Obama and Secretary Hagel to stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda,” said Weintz. “The president has made it clear he supports gay marriage. He has the legal authority to order federal agencies to recognize gay marriages. He does not have the legal authority to force state agencies to do so, or to unilaterally rewrite state laws or state constitutions.”

Ah, but isn’t the National Guard part of the US Military? President Bush seemed to think so when he sent them to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Texas is thinking the same thing as Okalhoma.

Towleroad.com reports:

Josh Havens, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, said, “Texas Military Forces is a state agency, and as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state which clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman.”

As are Mississippi and Georgia:

Bryant says he does not have the constitutional authority to lift the ban. “The Mississippi Constitution clearly defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and expressly prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions,” Bryant said through a spokesman.

Georgia has issued a similar statement: “The State of Georgia does not recognize same sex marriages and is not authorizing the Georgia National Guard to process the applications for same-sex married benefits at state facilities. Any personnel seeking to apply for same-sex married benefits will be referred to federal facilities.”

This may need a lawsuit to resolve the issue.

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USA: Defense Secretary Orders States to Provide Same Sex Benefits to National Guard Members

Friday, November 1st, 2013

Chuck HagelActing to shut down a growing red-state trend of denying benefits to same sex partners of National Guard members, US Defense Secretary Chuch Hagel just ordered those states to shape up.

Think Progress reports:

All spouses of service members are entitled to DoD ID cards, and the benefits that come with them. But several states today are refusing to issue these IDs to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities. Not only does this violate the states’ obligations under federal law, but 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.

This is wrong. It causes division among our ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD has fought to extinguish, as has the ADL. Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being declined and denied. 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.

Slowly and inexorably, same sex couples are winning the rights they deserve, even in the reddest of red states.

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USA, Texas: DART Board Finally Passes Benefits for Partners of LGBT Employees

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Dallas Rapid Transit Agency Delays Domestic Partner benefits Discussion AgainThe Dallas Area Rapid Transit board finally approved domestic partner benefits for its employees.

The Dallas Voice reports:

After debating the issue for more than a year, DART passed what it called its Healthcare Equalization plan that gives its employees domestic partner benefits this evening. The vote was 9-3. Michael Cheney and Randall Chrisman, who walked out of the board to break quorum two weeks ago, voted against the plan along with Mark Enoch. The so-called plus-one plan allows any DART employee to put another adult in the household on the DART healthcare plan.

It’s great to see this finally pass after being dragged out for so long. Another small step in Texas.

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USA: Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act Introduced

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

US CongressA bill that would provide benefits to partners of gay and lesbian federal employees, regardless of marital status, has been introduced in the US legislature.

GayWebSource.com reports:

While the Supreme Court’s decision striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and guidance from the Office of Personnel Management have made clear that federal workers’ same-sex spouses are now eligible for benefits, there are still federal employees who cannot access marriage and thus continue to be denied critical health, retirement and other benefits for their families. In an effort to remedy that continued inequality, today the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (DPBO) of 2013 was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and in the House by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) would provide benefits for same-sex domestic partners of federal civilian employees on the same basis as spousal benefits. These benefits would include participation in applicable retirement programs, life and health insurance benefits, and family and medical leave.

What do you think? While definitely an improvement in the short run for these couples, is this a good or bad thing in terms of long-term strategy for full marriage equality?

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USA: Marriage Equality and the US Military Updates

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Gay Wedding RingsWe have a few stories for you today regarding the US military and marriage equality. We’ll start with a report that some gay lesbian couples are having difficulty getting leave time to get married.

The LA Times reports:

The policy, announced with great fanfare at the Pentagon in mid-August, was meant to give same-sex couples up to 10 days special leave to get married in the 13 states that allow it — and thus equal access to low-cost healthcare, base shopping and other benefits available to married couples in the military. But implementation of the policy has caused widespread confusion. Only the Marines have issued final guidelines to their ranks on the new leave. The Army and Navy put out interim directives and are still working on final versions, while the Air Force has yet to even issue any instructions on granting the time off.

One other issue – resentful straight people:

The frustrations are palpable for soldiers such as Spc. Jodie Harper, an Ohio National Guard member and Army supply clerk stationed in Kuwait. When he heard about the new policy, he immediately applied for 10 days leave to wed his longtime male companion, Craig Roberts, in Washington, D.C., where gay marriage is legal. With Harper on a nine-month deployment and Roberts in school and working two jobs, the couple is struggling to make ends meet. Once married, Roberts could register for federal benefits available to spouses of other National Guard troops, including military healthcare, tuition assistance and payments to help defray housing expenses. But Harper’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mark Raaker, refused, saying only emergency leave was being granted. “He said if leave is granted for me to be married then it’s not fair to heterosexuals,” Harper said.

In another military story, the South Carolina National Guard is facilitating same-sex couples’ benefit requests by referring them to the federal offices in the state.

Pink News reports:

The National Guard in the US state of South Carolina has issued a benefit card to a same-sex couple, and is directing benefit applications to federal installations to avoid a conflict with a law banning equal marriage in the state. The issue of the benefit cards comes following a directive by the Pentagon from last month, which extended federal benefits to same-sex couples in the armed forces.

And finally, a District Court in Washington DC has affirmed that married partners of gay and lesbian troops are eligible for benefits through the federal government.

The Washington Blade reports:

In a four-page summary judgment, U.S. Judge Richard Stearns ruled on Wednesday in the lawsuit known as McLaughlin v. Hagel that gay troops plaintiffs in the case are entitled to spousal benefits in the wake of the Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act. Not only the does the decision affirm that spousal benefits must flow to active troops, the ruling states that benefits must flow to gay veterans in same-sex marriages because the portion of Title 38 restricting those benefits to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional.

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USA: Exxon to Finally Offer Benefits to Same-Sex Couples

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Exxon Mobil logoIn a victory that’s been years in the making, Exxon Mobil will finally offer benefits to married same-sex employees.

Pink News reports:

Exxon Mobil Corp announced on Friday that it plans to begin recognising “all legal marriages”, when deciding eligibility for health care plans for its 77,000 employees and retirees in the US. The announcement means that as of 1 October, any gay employee who has been married in a state or country where equal marriage is legal, their spouse will be eligible for the benefits. The company, which faces a same-sex discrimination complaint in Illinois, said on Friday that it was following the lead of the US Government.

In an apparent effort to save face, the company claims it hasn’t changed its policy – it’s just following the definition the US government sets out.

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USA: Gay Military Couple Talks about Pentagon Recognition, While Catholic Archdiocese Denies It

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Gay US Military CoupleWe have a couple stories out of the US military for you today. In the first one, a gay couple talks about being able to get benefits through the Pentagon.

Towleroad reports:

The Department of Defense has released a video marking the official extension of spousal and family benefits to same-sex couples, talking to Senior Chief Dwayne Beebe-Franqui and Jonathan Beebe-Franqui about what the change (though some of them will have to drive for it) means to them.

But at the same time the Pentagon is now recognizing same-sex military couples, the Catholic Church is going to extra lengths not to.

Towleroad reports:

The Archdiocese for the Military Services has issued new rules regarding Catholic chaplains’ involvement in same-sex marriages, funerals, and couple’s counseling. The gist? Chaplains should not indicate support for gay marriage, as mandated by Catholic doctrine. Someone should see what Pope Francis has to say about this… The rules, sent to chaplains on Sept. 18 by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio (pictured), head of the AMS, also bar chaplains from taking part in a funeral for a Catholic if that participation “would give the impression that the church approves of same sex ‘marital’ relationships.”

How petty can you get? What’s next, damning them to hell?

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USA, Oklahoma: Fourth State Says It Won’t Process National Guard Benefits for Same-Sex Couples

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Oklahoma Gov. Mary FallinOklahoma has joined Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana in deciding not to process military benefits for same-sex couples in the National Guard.

Gay Star News reports:

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has directed the state’s National Guard not to process military benefits for same-sex couples. As reported by Navy Times Alex Weintz, the governor’s spokesman, insisted Fallin was following the wishes of voters who banned gay marriages in the state. According to the gay rights group Lambda Legal, in 2004 the southern US state amended its constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages; Oklahoma does not recognize gay unions from other states.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the latest in our series of Profiles in Cowardice.

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USA, Louisiana: State is Third to Deny Benefits to National Guard’s Gay/Lesbian Soldiers

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Louisiana National Guard LogoAfter Texas and Mississippi, the next state over has also declined to process benefits claims for same sex partners of its National Guard soldiers.

Towleroad.com reports:

Earlier this week, Towleroad reported that both Texas and Mississippi were refusing to comply with orders from the Pentagon to begin offering partner benefits to troops with same-sex spouses, based on state laws banning same-sex marriage. Now Louisiana has joined them: The Louisiana National Guard won’t process benefits for same-sex couples because the state Constitution does not recognize gay marriage, a spokesman confirmed Wednesday. The directive directly contradicts a Pentagon policy issued Tuesday requiring the military to honor such benefits requests.

Block, block, block. Then sabotage, sabotage, sabotage. That’s all they know how to do.

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