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Oklahoma National Guard reverses stance on same-sex couple benefits

Oklahoma now joins Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana as the only states that have publicly said they will limit how and where such couples can register for benefits, despite a recent Pentagon directive.
by Phillip O'Connor Modified: September 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm •  Published: September 17, 2013

Officials in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana, also citing state laws banning gay marriage, also have said they won't issue applications from state-owned offices, but instead are directing guard members to federal installations. Officials in 11 other states that ban gay marriage have said they will follow federal law and process all couples seeking benefits the same, according to the Associated Press.

Stephen Peters, president of American Military Partner Association, which advocates for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people in the armed forces, called Oklahoma's reversal “very unfortunate.”

The Washington-based organization recently launched a joint petition with the American Civil Liberties Union calling on the Defense Department to reaffirm that all married military personnel must be treated equally, and that National Guards cannot choose to ignore the order by denying same-sex military couples equal access to the benefits to which they are entitled.

“It just shows the Defense Department is going to have to take action and tell these state national guards that they can't use federal funds to discriminate. That's essentially what they're doing,” Peters said.

Mike Redman, advocacy chair for Oklahomans for Equality, a Tulsa-based gay rights group, said the different way same-sex couples are being treated, “underscores the inherent unfairness of Gov. Fallin's policies.”

It's also an example of why Oklahoma's constitutional provision banning gay marriage violates the U.S Constitution's equal protection and due process clauses, Redman said.

“You have two lawfully married couples being treated differently,” Redman said. “I strongly encourage Gov. Fallin and other leaders to look at that disparity in treatment in these policies and justify that disparity when the Supreme Court says it's unequal and not appropriate.”

by Phillip O'Connor
Enterprise Editor
O'Connor joined the Oklahoman staff in June, 2012 after working at The Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a combined 28 years. O'Connor, an Oklahoma City resident, is a graduate of Kansas State University. He has written frequently...
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