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Pentagon to Fight 9 States Denying Same-Sex Guard ID Cards

general-henry-graham-governor-george-wallace-stand-schoolhouse-door

Fifty years after the Stand in the Schoolhouse door, there’s another standoff with recalcitrant states on civil rights.

Military.com (“Hagel: 9 States Denying Same Sex IDs Are ‘Wrong’“):

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pledged Thursday night to expand benefits and issue dependent identity cards to the same-sex spouses of National Guard members in the nine states that have resisted the repeal of key portions of the Defense of Marriage Act.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the sections of the Defense of Marriage Act that barred benefits to same-sex spouses of servicemembers were unconstitutional. Following the ruling, Texas announced that it would not issue ID cards to same-sex spouses at state National Guard facilities because of a “potential conflict” between state law and Defense Department policy.

In recent weeks, eight other states — Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia — have taken action similar to that of Texas.

Defense Department officials said this resulted in same-sex spouses being denied military identification cards at 114 Army and Air National Guard facilities nationwide.

“This is wrong and causes divisions among our ranks,” Hagel told an audience at the Anti-Defamation League in New York, which included his predecessor, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was being honored by the ADL.

Hagel said the actions by the nine states violated their commitments under federal law. Without giving specifics, Hagel said he was prepared to take action against the nine states if they fail to come into compliance with DoD policy on same-sex spouses.

While I’m hesitant to compare discrimination against homosexuals to that against African-Americans, this standoff is reminiscent of the battle between the federal government and recalcitrant states as Jim Crow was ending. In 1957, President Eisenhower famously put the Arkansas National Guard under federal control to allow to enforce the Supreme Court’s rulings to desegregate the schools. In 1963, President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard to end Governor George Wallace’s infamous stand in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama.  In both cases, citizen-soldiers from those states defied the political will of their governor, and quite likely their own personal prejudices, to carry out the orders of the commander-in-chief.

President Obama might wish to remind the governors of the nine non-compliant states of this history and allow them to obey the law of their own volition. Otherwise, federalizing the Guard in those states for 30 days and court martialing leaders who refuse to carry out their orders will quickly resolve the standoff.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. JoshB says:

    The governors of the nine states are reminiscent of the Japanese soldiers continuing to fight WW2 years after it ended. They are content to fight a losing battle. There is no question that this country is on the path to expanded equality, but gosh darnit they just can’t help themselves. Haters gotta hate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. Tyrell says:

    I remember very well the famous school house stand and the various behind the scenes manueverings between Governor George C. Wallace and Bobby Kennedy. It seems that they reached an agreement that Wallace would stand there, make a statement, and then move, to give the appearance of being forced over by the federal troops. This was his way of saving face. I think most of the phone conversations are still around between them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Tony W says:

    President Obama might wish to remind the governors of the nine non-compliant states of this history and allow them to obey the law of their own volition. Otherwise, federalizing the Guard in those states for 30 days and court martialing leaders who refuse to carry out their orders will quickly resolve the standoff.

    Five years into this presidency, I still wonder if he has the stones to do it. I hope so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Woody says:

    Faubus 2.0.

    Bemused that this is the lone criticism of the military allowed by the Republican Party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Scott says:

    To Gov Perry and Gov in waiting Greg Abbott, this is win-win. They get to defy the Federal Govt and even better, sue the Feds. There are no consequences or downside.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  6. JKB says:

    Could be interesting but probably mostly bureaucratic movement. Seems odd, since the ID system is DoD system being performed by agreement, usually with the proviso that they make IDs for any authorized persons of any branch. Of course, the only official option may be for DoD to pull the systems off NG sites. But then the load would just shift to the closest DoD base ID office.

    So maybe the states might to go back to their own militias? That’d be a dramatic evolution. And how much fun to watch the “elite” inside the beltway freak out over 25 or so standing militias they don’t directly control. Unlikely, but what fun.

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  7. Scott says:

    @JKB: Of course most of the money for Guard units come from the Feds. Are the states willing to pony up the cash? I doubt it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. An Interested Party says:

    While I’m hesitant to compare discrimination against homosexuals to that against African-Americans…

    Why?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. Stonetools says:

    Makes you wonder why you still are in the massive resistance party, doesn’t it James?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Tony W says:

    @Scott: In Texas they like to talk big about their independence from the country at large – enabling their ability to secede at any time. I guess they figure we’d continue to buy all that oil from them instead of some other ‘foreign country’.

    Nobody serious really believes this bluster, any more than we give deference to folks with teabags hanging off their hats, but it does speak to the idea that a state-funded militia is not beyond their capability, and perhaps even their collective will.

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  11. John D'Geek says:

    @JJ: You may need to go deeper.

    IIRC (and I may not be C), the National Guard is still a State Institution — not a Federal Institution — under direct control of the States until and unless activated by the President. While national law (aka “Supreme Court Ruling”) requires the Pentagon to respect the States’ Marriage Laws, there is (currently) no law requiring the States to recognise same-sex marriage performed in another state.

    Short version: DoD may be wrong on this one.

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  12. Ludite4Change says:

    If anything, this highlights the crazy systems (Title 10 AGR, Title 32 AGR, GS/Drilling Reservist, State Employee/Reservist) that we use to support the full time manning, maintaining, and training of the National Guard and reserve components. Its stupid and wasteful, go with one system that’s paid from one pot of money. If the State needs additional personnel on active duty to perform activities in support of the State function, they need to pay for if, but you don’t wear a uniform that says US Army/Air Force while doing so.

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