Hagel spoke Thursday night at the Anti-Defamation League's centennial dinner speech in Washington, D.C. He criticized states that have not issued the ID cards that allow same-sex spouses to claim military benefits.
“Not only does this violate the states' obligation 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.
Oklahoma is one of nine states not issuing the IDs. Gov. Mary Fallin’s office told the Guard in September that doing so would violate the state's voter-passed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The military, including the Oklahoma National Guard, began processing the requests following the Supreme Court's decision to throw out the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June. Fallin’s office told the Guard in September that processing such requests would be a constitutional violation. The Guard had processed two such requests at that point.
Same-sex National Guard couples can apply for IDs and benefits at federal military installations including Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill.
Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, the adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard, now has conflicting advice from his military superiors and the governor, who commands the Guard.
Deering could not be reached for comment.
It was not immediately clear what Deering would do, but Hagel said he will take further steps if the states don't comply.
“Today, I directed the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation,” Hagel said. “The adjutants general will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy.”
A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday night reiterated her stance that the Guard cannot legally process requests for benefits from same-sex couples.
“In 2004, Oklahomans voted to amend the state constitution to define marriage to be between a man and a woman,” spokesman Alex Weintz said in an emailed statement. “That measure, which passed with 75 percent support from Oklahoma voters, also specifically prohibited giving benefits of marriage to people who are not married. It is therefore prohibited by the Oklahoma Constitution for National Guardsmen, or other state employees or entities, to process benefits for gay couples.”
The other states that have not been issuing military IDs to members of the National Guard are: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
CONTRIBUTING: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS