By TOM LoBIANCO
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana National Guard announced Friday that it’s been processing benefits for same-sex couples since the start of October, after U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a warning to states that have been denying the benefits.
A National Guard spokeswoman said Indiana delayed processing benefits for a month while consulting with the attorney general’s office, but never denied benefits nor broke federal law.
The U.S. Supreme Court this summer issued a ruling that found the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. President Barack Obama quickly ordered that all federal employees in same-sex partnerships be granted federal benefits.
“This diversity is a necessity and makes us stronger. The sum is greater than our individual parts. Our mission success depends on the diversity of the Indiana National Guard throughout our ranks and our employees,” said Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, leader of the state National Guard.
The American Military Partner Association, a group representing gay and lesbian members of the military, has spent the past few months documenting states that have been denying federal benefits to same sex couples. Some conservative-leaning states, including Texas, had declared they would not issue benefits cards for same sex couples at National Guard facilities because of conflicts with state law.
Couples could still go to federal bases to apply for benefits and receive their identification cards. But Hagel said Thursday, in a speech before the Anti-Defamation League, that the states were violating federal law and creating an unequal “hardship” for the couples.