The Pentagon has ordered national guard facilities nationwide to extend equal treatment to married couples in the U.S. military – including same-sex married couples – and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave them a Dec. 1 deadline to comply.
While most states have gladly gone along – because, really, what kind of governor wants to deny active-duty military personnel equal treatment, especially during a war? – there are a handful of far-right, red-state governors who continue to resist the order, citing their state’s anti-gay policies.
Oklahoma will stop processing all military spouse benefit applications at state-owned National Guard facilities rather than begin accepting the applications from same-sex spouses, Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday.
Instead, military spouse applications, including those of same-sex couples, will only be accepted at four federally owned National Guard bases: the Air National Guard bases in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, the Regional Training Institute in Oklahoma City and Camp Gruber.
Got that? Fallin’s administration could process benefits applications for all military spouses – just as most governors from both parties are doing – but that would mean helping same-sex married couples. So rather than comply with the Defense Department, Oklahoma intends to stop processing everyone’s benefits applications.
If you’re in the National Guard, you’re in Oklahoma, and you want your spouse to be eligible for benefits, you must now travel to a federally run facility – because the state doesn’t intend to process your application anymore. As Rachel put it on the show, “Instead of treating one group with dignity and one group with indignity, now nobody gets treated at all.”
The story took an interesting turn today, however, when Fallin said on Twitter, “To set the record straight – no National Guardsman in Oklahoma is being denied marriage benefits. Stories that suggest otherwise are false.”
Twitter obviously isn’t conducive to detailed explanations – 140 characters is inherently limiting – which is a shame in a case like this because the governor’s message isn’t exactly helpful in letting the public know the whole story.
In Oklahoma, can married National Guardsmen and women apply for marriage benefits? Yes. But – and this is the important part – the Republican governor and her administration have changed state policy in order to deny equal treatment to married same-sex couples. The applications will still be processed, but only at federal locations in Oklahoma because Fallin’s state facilities have withdrawn from the process rather than helping Guard personnel – gay or straight – in order to remain in technical compliance with the Pentagon policy.
Let’s put this another way:
1. Oklahoma used to process military spouse benefit applications.
2. Then the Pentagon ordered Guard bases to treat all marriages equally.
3. Then Oklahoma stopped processing military spouse benefit applications.
Fallin’s defense, at least on Twitter, is that benefits will still be available, and to be sure, that’s heartening.
But it also misses the point of the controversy.