Last week Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told 9 states to fix the inequality problem caused by their refusal to allow National Guard facilities in those states to issue ID cards to same-sex spouses of military members, thus forcing those same-sex military members to travel long distances to federal military bases to get those cards and the benefits that goes with them.
Now it seems that the South Carolina National Guard thinks they have, kinda, sorta, has come up with a plan to get Hagel off their backs about this whole treating troops unequally thing….. as they intend to make EVERYONE, gay and straight troops alike, travel long distances to federal military bases to get those cards….
The S.C. National Guard has been in compliance with the Department of Defense policy to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and Department of Defense civilian employees since it became effective Sept. 3, 2013 and has already processed at least one request for enrollment.
“We have no reports of anyone being denied benefits,” said Col. Ronald Taylor, the Director of Service Member and Family Care Programs for the S.C. National Guard. “Additionally, our I.D. card section has responded to at least four inquiries from members to learn procedures to enroll.”
The S.C. National Guard has in its ranks both federal employees and state employees, who also work in both federal facilities and state owned facilities. The S.C. Constitution contains a provision prohibiting the state, or its political subdivisions, from recognizing or giving affect to same-sex unions.
Concerns were raised that use of state-owned facilities to process initial enrollment for same-sex military DEERS beneficiary-related requests would violate the S.C. Constitution.
To ensure all Service Members are treated equally, all new union enrollments of beneficiaries in DEERs, regardless of status, are being processed at their federal facilities, which are located at McEntire Joint National Guard Base and the McCrady Training Center in Eastover as well as the Donaldson Center, USAR in Greenville. Other federal facilities available in S.C. include Fort Jackson, Joint Base Charleston or Marine Corps facilities at Parris Island/Beaufort. Neighboring states with federal facilities are Ft. Gordon and Ft. Stewart, GA or Charlotte or Ft. Bragg, N.C.
The S.C. National Guard I.D. card sites, which are located in state facilities in Anderson, Conway, Spartanburg, Mullins, Edgefield, Columbia and Union, are referring all new unions to federal facilities to have ID cards and DEERS enrollment completed. Once enrollment is complete, any follow-up changes to ID cards/ DEERS can be handled at either federal or state facilities.
“ I must support the policy directed by the Department of Defense to assist our military members, including that we ensure fairness and equal treatment, and that we take care of all our Service Members each of whom has made sacrifices for our state and nation,” said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., The Adjutant General for S.C. “This decision to use only federal facilities should avoid policy and legal concerns under the state’s Constitution, while treating all of our Service Members with the dignity and respect that they deserve.”
We are not really sure this is the solution the Defense Secretary had in mind.