CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

September 4, 2013

Ala Guard to honor Pentagon same-sex policy

BY JAY REEVES
Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Alabama National Guard said Wednesday it will follow a Pentagon policy and honor requests for military benefits for same-sex couples, who aren’t legally recognized under state law.

A Guard spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Shannon Hancock, said military attorneys and other leaders plan to abide by Defense Department policy, even though Texas is refusing and Mississippi is setting conditions.

Tuesday was the first day to seek benefits under the rule, and Hancock said it was too early to assess the potential impact in Alabama.

“This is new ground and territory for everyone,” she said.

Hancock said no one yet had filed applications for same-sex benefits in Alabama, which has a state law and a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The Pentagon, following a Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act, last month said same-sex spouses of troops will be eligible for the same health care, housing and other benefits as heterosexual spouses.

The Texas National Guard said it will refuse to process benefit requests for homosexual couples and Mississippi said it will not issue applications from state-owned offices, but Hancock said Alabama hadn’t set any restrictions on following the federal rule.

“The Alabama National Guard is going to follow the policies issued by the Department of Defense,” she said.

Any military couple seeking same-sex benefits in Alabama would have to be married elsewhere and move to the state since Alabama does not allow same-sex marriage. Under the Pentagon rule, same-sex spouses can seek benefits only if the service member provides a valid marriage certificate.

The Pentagon said military personnel in a same-sex relationship who are stationed in a state that does not permit the marriages will be allowed to take leave for travel to a jurisdiction where they can be joined legally, although Alabama does not recognize homosexual marriages from other states.