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Texas Military Forces Refuse to Process Same-Sex Couples' Benefits

By Daniel Reynolds

The Texas Military Forces, which includes the state's National Guard and other troops, are refusing to process requests from gay and lesbian couples for spousal benefits, ignoring orders from the Department of Defense that it should extend health care, housing, and other benefits to married gay and lesbian members of the military by today.

Maj. Gen. John Nichols, who oversees the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, and Texas State Guard, directed state-run facilities to comply with the state constitution, which does not recognize same-sex marriage, in a letter issued last Friday.

However, Nichols stipulated that the forces remain “committed to ensuring its military personnel and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled. As such, we encourage anyone affected by this issue to enroll for benefits at a federal installation."

The directive creates an additional hurdle for gay and lesbian members of the military, who now must apply for benefits at a federal facility. In Texas, one of the nation’s largest states, applying at a federal installation could require traveling a considerable distance.

The office of Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, later corroborated Nichols’s claims that the Pentagon's orders conflicted with state law.

According to the Texas Family Code 6.204, a “marriage between persons of the same sex or a civil union is contrary to the public policy of this state and is void in this state.”

The Pentagon confirmed to the Associated Press that Texas is the only entire state that is currently refusing to process benefit requests for same-sex partners, though some state-run offices in Mississippi have also refused to issue applications.

“It’s truly outrageous that the state of Texas has decided to play politics with our military families," said Stephen Peters, president of American Military Partner Association, which advocates for LGBT military families. "Gov. Rick Perry should be ashamed. Our military families are already dealing with enough problems and the last thing they need is more discrimination from the state of Texas."   

Tuesday was the first day these benefits were available to members of the military, following the Supreme Court decision that struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act.

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