Gay rights activists praise Kentucky for allowing same-sex benefits

Nov. 17, 2013 at 3:59 PM

FRANKFURT, Ky., Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has decided to allow same-sex spouses of National Guard members to apply for federal benefits, his spokesman said.

The decision came after Kentucky Adjutant General Edward Tonini recommended the Guard follow the Defense Department's policy, The Courier-Journal reported.

"They're service members applying for benefits, so we give them to them," said Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, a Guard spokesman.

Since the benefits became available, four individuals in Kentucky have received them.

Five states -- Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi -- have ignored the order from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

In those states, spouses have had to drive to federal military posts in other states.

Hagel's order applies to all military branches, and came after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. The ruling opened up federal benefits to sames-sex spouses legally married in states that allow same-sex marriages.

"We're proud Gov. Beshear has affirmed our state's responsibility to service members and their spouses," Christ Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said.

But supporters of Kentucky's constitutional amendment that bans the recognition or performance of same-sex marriage denounced the decision.

State National Guards have become a center of gay rights debates, as the agencies answer to the governor but receive almost all their funding from the federal government.

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