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Same sex couples win the right to register for benefits in the Texas National Guard

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

RedEquality

The Texas National Guard said late Tuesday it will immediately let same-sex couples register for benefits, ending a highly publicized standoff with the Pentagon.

Five Texas Guard facilities, including one in Houston, that had been off limits for same-sex couples seeking benefits will begin to enroll same-sex dependent spouses in benefits programs.

“We’re going to go back to business as usual,” said Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, a Texas Guard spokeswoman. “It will be full service.”

The decision means same-sex couples in the Guard can now obtain services ranging from access to base commissaries to medical care and housing allowances – all benefits granted to married heterosexual couples.

[…]

The Defense Department said it would issue benefits to same-sex spouses of the military as well as civilian workers after the Supreme Court ruled that part of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

Gov. Rick Perry defied the Pentagon, saying Texas defines marriage as between a man and a woman. But [Defense Secretary Chuck] Hagel made it clear Oct. 31 that the Defense Department expected all 54 guard organizations to comply.

Texas cited its state constitution and Family Code in refusing Hagel’s demands. It told same-sex couples to file their paperwork at more than 20 active-duty installations and refused to let them to apply for benefits at guard facilities in Abilene, Austin, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and the Rio Grande Valley.

Those facilities will handle the paperwork, including marriages certificates, starting Wednesday, said MacGregor.

The governor, who has led challenges to Washington over redistricting, abortion and its new voter ID law, insisted the state wouldn’t give in, and the phrasing of a news release Tuesday on the guard’s website didn’t suggest that Texas backed down.

“The Department of Defense has approved a new procedure for enrolling National Guard members and their dependents in benefits programs,” it stated. “The new procedure essentially recognizes the conflict between the Texas Constitution and DOD policy mandating the enrollment of same-gender dependent spouses in benefits programs.”

About damn time. It’s beyond shameful that this was even in question. It’s still somewhat unclear to me what led to this change – I’ve searched the Texas Military Forces and Texas Army National Guard webpages but can’t find the news release cited in the story. Either Rick Perry backed down, in which case I am not too proud to say that I would like to gloat about that, or Texas Military Forces decided on their own that they answered to the federal government ahead of the state government, in which case it seems to me that the potential for conflict has not been resolved.

No attorney general’s opinion has been issued on the matter, but the [Washington, D.C.-based American Military Partner Association] told [AG Greg] Abbott in a letter that Texas and other noncompliant states were undermining force readiness, and even precluding same-sex couples from involvement with Family Readiness Groups that are a link to troops in the war zone.

“This is undoubtedly damaging to morale, good order and discipline,” the group said.

Here’s the American Military Partner Association’s website. Abbott asked them for their view on this. It may be the case that he concluded the state’s position was a loser and that this helped tilt the scales. If that’s the case then kudos to him, but it doesn’t change my opinion that Wendy Davis needs to make an issue out of this. She can quite reasonably point out that she would not pick this kind of stupid and harmful fight as Governor but will instead do the right thing from the beginning. She ought to be running against Rick Perry as much as she is against Greg Abbott anyway. The fact that the state appears to have backed down is a point in her favor, if she would just claim it. Texas Leftist and Texpatriate have more.

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