Gay Oklahoma guardsmen denied couple benefits by state

Sept. 18, 2013 at 3:50 PM
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OKLAHOMA CITY, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Reversing course, the Oklahoma National Guard said it will not process requests for same-sex partner benefits because state law prohibits gay marriage.

After the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing the validity of gay marriages in states where it is legal, the Department of Defense made the determination all same-sex applications should be treated the same as married straight couples. Gay couples only need present a marriage license from a state that recognizes same-sex unions to get access to perks like health insurance, housing allowances and survivor benefits.

Two gay couples had applied to the Oklahoma National Guard to receive the benefits and were processed without objection by state workers before Gov. Mary Fallin's legal counsel's office issued an opinion saying it would be illegal for state workers to process federal same-sex marriage benefit requests because such unions are illegal in Oklahoma, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported Wednesday.

Voters in 2004 overwhelmingly passed a referendum changing the state Constitution to outlaw gay marriage.

"Because of that legal prohibition, Oklahoma National Guard soldiers and airmen will not process requests for same-sex benefits," Col. Max Moss, a spokesman for the Guard, said Tuesday.

Gay couples can still apply for the benefits at federal military installations in the state, The Oklahoman said.

Advocates for gays in the military called on the Pentagon to intervene and force state guard units -- funded in part by federal taxes -- to offer the benefits.

"It just shows the Defense Department is going to have to take action and tell these state National Guards that they can't use federal funds to discriminate. That's essentially what they're doing," said Stephen Peters of the American Military Partners Association, a group advocating on behalf of LGBT soldiers and their families.

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