Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been dead for nearly three years, yet LGBT service members are still fighting to receive the same benefits as their fellow soldiers. In nine states, National Guard bases are refusing to recognize same-sex spouses and issue them ID cards. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke out against those states on Thursday night.
Hagel said that refusing to grant ID cards to same-sex partners "causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice."
"Not only does this violate the states' obligations under federal law, their actions have created hardship and inequality by forcing couples to travel long distances to federal military bases to obtain the ID cards they're entitled to," the Defense Secretary said in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League in New York.
"Everyone's rights must be protected," he said.
Texas became the first state to announce the policy on August 30, when the Texas Air National Guard's Adjutant General released a memo noting that state law does not recognize same-sex marriage.
"Due to this potential conflict, we are unable to enroll same-sex families" into the military's database of servicemembers and dependents, wrote Adjutant General John F. Nichols. Instead, same-sex spouses would need to leave the base and travel to federal facilities in order to receive proper identification. Since Nichols made his announcement, eight other states have instituted similar policies: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
Hagel announced that he has directed the chief of the National Guard Bureau to "take immediate action to remedy this situation" and "meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied."