Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico has, apparently, decided to honor marriages entered into by same-sex couples in that state even though the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether or not same-sex marriages are legal there.
The Pentagon will not confirm whether or not this is the case, but BuzzFeed talked to some same-sex spouses of service members who have been able to get spousal ID’s based upon marriages obtained in New Mexico.
Pentagon Spokesman Nathan Christiansen stated that “The department will make the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as service member-sponsors provide a valid marriage certificate from a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage. I would refer you to the state of New Mexico who can discuss the specifics of their state law.”
New Mexico currently has eight counties issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state law does not explicitly ban same-sex marriage as it makes no mention of man or woman, male or female. It does make mention to husband and wife, but apparently in such a way as to not ban same-sex marriage.
Stephen Peters, the president of the American Military Partner Association, was baffled by the Pentagon’s decision not to say anything. He said “We can’t have one base recognizing them and the rest of the [Department of Defense] not doing so. So it’s very strange the DoD won’t confirm.”
According to BuzzFeed, one couple got married on 28 August and were initially turned down by Kirtland when they sought to obtain spousal benefits. Courtney Schmeling, the wife of Senior Airman Natalie Throckmorton, “They said that we would have to get a marriage license from another state.” Last week, they changed their policy and gave Schmeling her ID card.
AMPA announced the change in policy by stating that “The 377th Air Base Wing and installation commander at Kirtland Air Force Base, Colonel Tom Miller, did an outstanding job of quickly correcting the situation when same-gender military spouses were turned away from enrollment for military benefits because they had a marriage license from the state of New Mexico.”
Apparently, the guidelines came from outside Kirtland, specifically from the Air Force Personnel Center.
Kirtland spokeswoman Meredith Mingledorff wrote that “Effective Sept. 3, the Secretary of Defense announced that all military departments will extend benefits to same-sex spouses of military members and retirees. On Sept. 5, military members and their same-sex spouses came into the 377th Force Support Squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base with marriage certificates issued in New Mexico. Because civil authorities in New Mexico have only recently begun to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the guidance in hand for Department of Defense identification cards didn’t address jurisdictions in New Mexico. The issue of those ID cards was delayed while Air Force officials sought clarification.”
She added “Based on information received Sept. 6 from Headquarters Air Force Personnel Center on jurisdictions not covered in previous guidance, officials at Kirtland are issuing dependent ID cards to same-sex spouses of military members and retirees with valid marriage certificates from jurisdictions within New Mexico.”