Oklahoma blocks spousal benefits to National Guard to avoid including same sex couples
Oklahoma’s governor ordered the state’s national guard to halt all spousal enrollment for benefits rather than allow same sex couples to receive the same benefits as heterosexual marriages. According to Think Progress, now all couples must apply for benefits at federal National Guard installations rather than Oklahoma National Guard bases, a trip that could be hundreds of miles for some families.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) announced earlier this month that her state will ignore federal statutes that ordered the end of discrimination in the military against same sex partners.
“Oklahoma law is clear,” the governor said in a statement. “Oklahoma law is clear. The state of Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriages, nor does it confer marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The decision reached today allows the National Guard to obey Oklahoma law without violating federal rules or policies. It protects the integrity of our state constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people.”
The Tulsa World pointed out that while Oklahoma owns the majority of its National Guard installations and training centers, they were all built with federal funds. Furthermore, the federal government pays for 90 percent of the budget of the Oklahoma Military Department, from which National Guard funding is drawn.
Fallin’s policy defies an order by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel mandating that states allow equal treatment to all state and federal employees and their spouses.
Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, told the World, “The governor is sending the message that Oklahoma desires to be an island of prejudice and continues to uphold laws crafted out of fear and drafted by bigots and hypocrites.”
“Once again,” he said, “she has insulted our citizen soldiers who daily stand in harm’s way for the people of Oklahoma.”
Fallin took to Twitter on Wednesday to try and negate some of the bad publicity her office has received for its exclusionary tactics.
“To set the record straight,” she tweeted, “no National Guardsman in Oklahoma is being denied marriage benefits. Stories that suggest otherwise are false.”
This is technically true. However, now National Guard personnel must travel to federal facilities to apply for them, meaning that Fallin is within the letter of the law on Hagel’s order to stop anti-LGBT discrimination, but not the spirit.
[image of Gov. Mary Fallin via Facebook.com]