Nine states that continue refuse to issue military IDs to same-sex spouses of service members at National Guard facilities are “wrong” and causing “division among the ranks” that furthers prejudice, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
He called out the states for the first time in a speech before the Anti-Defamation League in New York City.
Hagel said he has directed the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to "take immediate action to remedy this situation," and to "meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied."
Texas this summer announced a "potential conflict" between state law, which does not allow same-sex marriage and the U.S. Department of Defense policy. The Defense Department is now abiding by a Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that banned federal recognition of gay marriages.
Texas, meanwhile, said the state would not issue ID cards to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities, saying those identity cards can only be obtained at federal facilities in the state.
Since Texas’ decision, eight other states have made similar decisions: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.
A senior defense official told NBC News that across those states there are "114 Army and Air National Guard sites that are not providing ID cards to eligible same-sex spouses."
"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," Hagel said.
The senior defense official said that "these states' refusal to comply with federal policy not only hurts members of the National Guard but also active and reserve military members and retirees that are seeking an ID card for their same-sex spouse at National Guard facilities," adding, "families being denied this benefit are told to travel to a federal installation."
"Secretary Hagel expects these nine states to resolve this issue. He is prepared to take further action should the states not come into compliance with DoD policy," the official said.
The same-sex spouses are not being denied the cards entirely but they must travel to a federal facility to obtain them, which in some cases is hours away.
After reviewing the state and federal laws, one state – South Carolina – decided to just change the rules for everyone, and now requires all service members to go to a federal facility for their IDs.
Jeff Black of NBC News contributed to this report.
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First published October 31 2013, 6:21 PM