Lambda Legal to Texas National Guard: Follow Dept. of Defense Guidelines for Married Same-Sex Couples
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(Dallas, TX, September 13, 2013) – Lambda Legal today sent a letter to the commanding general of Texas Military Forces urging him to abide by U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines and allow married same-sex military couples to register for federal benefits at any military base in the state.
“Texas Military Forces seems to believe that registering the same-sex spouse of a service member for federal benefits somehow violates the state constitution and statutes—which is at best a dubious assertion,” Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Paul Castillo said. “Texas Military Forces voluntarily implements a host of federal benefits programs for all National Guard units in the state. To send married same-sex couples on a detour to register for federal benefits while imposing no such burden on other military families is discrimination, pure and simple.”
Lambda Legal submitted the letter to Major General John F. Nichols, Adjutant General of Texas, on behalf of Alicia Butler, the wife of 1st Lt. Judith Chedville, a member of the Army National Guard who served in Iraq and Kuwait. Earlier this month, after the DoD had issued guidelines on extending benefits to the same-sex spouses of military members, Butler and Chedville went to Camp Mabry in Austin to attempt to register in the federal Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Even after presenting a valid marriage license, Butler was denied access to the registration process at Camp Mabry, and was told they would instead have to travel to a federal facility, the closest one requiring a three-hour trip.
“This is just so silly and demeaning,” Butler said. “What they’re saying in effect is, ‘well, we don’t want to give you these benefits, but we have to, so we’re going to make it as inconvenient as possible.’ It’s incredibly petty, and does impose a real hardship that other couples don’t have to bear.”
“This stigmatizing and punitive policy conflicts with DoD policy to treat all military spouses equally and also seems to contradict the governing philosophy of Texas Military Forces to act in the best interests of all service members and families,” Castillo added. “We urge General Nichols to instruct his staff to stop this discriminatory behavior and enroll all eligible spouses of service members for federal benefits.”