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Oklahoma National Guard will process same-sex spouse benefits at a few federal facilities

by Silas Allen Published: November 7, 2013

The Oklahoma National Guard will begin processing military benefit applications for same-sex partners at a few federally owned National Guard facilities around the state, Gov. Mary Fallin announced Wednesday.

Same-sex married couples still won't be able to apply for benefits at state-owned facilities, and state employees won't process the applications.

Same-sex partners may now apply for military benefits at Camp Gruber, near Braggs; the Regional Training Institute in Oklahoma City and Air National Guard bases at Will Rogers World Airport and Tulsa International Airport.

Same-sex couples can also continue with a previous National Guard recommendation to have their benefits processed at the state's five federal military installations: Tinker Air Force Base, Altus Air Force Base, Vance Air Force Base, Fort Sill and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.

The announcement Wednesday represents a compromise between a federal directive requiring the Oklahoma National Guard to offer full military benefits to same-sex partners and a state prohibition on gay marriage.

Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Oklahoma National Guard to begin issuing military ID cards and providing benefits to same-sex couples. But Fallin previously had said the Oklahoma National Guard couldn't process benefits for same-sex married couples because of an Oklahoma Constitution amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Fallin said the Oklahoma's ban on marriage benefits for same-sex couples is clear.

“The decision reached today allows the National Guard to obey Oklahoma law without violating federal rules or policies,” she said. “It protects the integrity of our state constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people.”

Chris Rowzee, a spokeswoman for the American Military Partner Association, said the plan still treats gay and lesbian National Guard members differently than their straight counterparts. The plan still requires gay and lesbian service members to travel to different facilities, which she called unacceptable.

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