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National Guard issuing IDs to same-sex couples at all locations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia National Guard is now granting military ID cards, necessary to get benefits like health care, to same-sex spouses of National Guard members at all of its ID issuing locations.

No one had been turned away from getting a military ID -- because no one had asked at a state-run facility -- but prior to last week, the National Guard had been issuing IDs to same-sex spouses only at its four federally-run facilities. The National Guard also has five state-run ID issuing facilities.

To date, one ID card has been issued to a same-sex spouse at a National Guard location in Martinsburg, and the process has begun on one application at the Air National Guard in Charleston.

"The West Virginia National Guard's commitment to service members is reflected in its ongoing efforts to facilitate every request it has received," said Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. "As state law provides for the National Guard to be governed and administered in accordance with federal law and regulations, it will continue to defer to the U.S. Defense Department directive on this subject."

The DOD had twice notified all National Guard locations that they needed to issue ID cards to same-sex spouses. The first notification came on June 27, the day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

In striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, the court ruled that same-sex couples who are legally married in their states are entitled to federal benefits, like military family benefits, the same as other married couples.

On Aug. 15, the Department of Defense notified all states that its system had been updated and that all locations should be issuing ID cards to same-sex spouses by Sept. 3.

West Virginia law does not recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

In a speech last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reprimanded nine states, West Virginia among them, for not issuing the IDs at all locations.

"All spouses of service members are entitled to [Department of Defense] ID cards and the benefits that come with them, but several states are refusing to issue these IDs to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities," Hagel said.

A Saturday Gazette-Mail article noted that West Virginia was not in compliance with that directive.

Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, said that he spoke with National Guard leaders about the issue and was satisfied with their actions. Skinner is the first openly gay member of the West Virginia Legislature.

"It's clear to me that when the article was written and when the DOD released its statement, that the Guard's process wasn't finished, and so they explained everything they had done and that they were essentially working through it," Skinner said. "My understanding was the DOD was premature in condemning some of the states." Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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