In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, allowing the possibility for married couples of the same-sex to finally be allowed the same federal benefits as other married couples. Primarily, the focus has been on the military and that ID cards can now be given to same-sex spouses, allowing them access to transferable benefits like the GI Bill. Despite individual opinions about the issue, the military follows orders and this ruling cleared the way for officials to follow the law.
However, when one is a member of the National Guard — part of the Army, but operated by the State — which laws is one to follow?
In Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, National Guard spokespeople announced that they would not be issuing ID cards or processing applications for benefits from their state-owned offices. These states only recognize heterosexual marriage as defined by law, placing the National Guard in a situation where federal and state law clash.
However, because there are federal facilities in these states, same-sex soldiers and spouses can apply for benefits in those locations. Most of these states have laws or amendments to their constitutions that actively prevent the state government from recognizing same-sex marriage in any way.
The other 13 states that have banned gay marriage will follow federal law, processing all applications for benefits.
Same-sex marriage is illegal in Alabama; however, as long as a couple has a valid marriage certificate from a state where same-sex marriage is legal, they can apply for the benefits.
President Obama has mandated that same-sex couples who serve and live in states where they cannot marry be given leave so they can travel to a state where they can be married.