Hagel Deploys National Guard Chief to Combat States' Gay Troop Protest

Defense secretary deploys National Guard chief to states refusing to grant rights to same-sex troops.

Abraham Foxman, center, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, greets Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, and Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense, at the annual meeting Thursday of the Anti-Defamation League in New York.
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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Thursday night he had ordered the head of the National Guard Bureau to take action against states that have refused to comply with the Pentagon's new policies regarding gay soldiers and their spouses.

Texas was the first of nine states that have said it will not issue military identity cards to the same-sex spouses of troops within their National Guard units. The Department of defense lifted its ban on gays serving openly in the military following the June 26 Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act. In September the Department of Defense began issuing full military benefits to the spouses of these gay troops.

[READ: Pentagon Extends Benefits to Spouses of Gay, Lesbian Troops]

The state of Texas, followed by Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia have all declined to issue the cards to National Guard troops, citing potential conflicts between these new federal policies and state laws at home.

"Not only does this violate the states' obligations under federal law, their actions have created hardship and inequality by forcing couples to travel long distances to federal military bases to obtain the ID cards they're entitled to," said Hagel Thursday night, while speaking at the Anti-Defamation League Centennial Dinner in New York City.

"This is wrong," he said. "It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DOD has fought to extinguish."

Under Hagel's orders, National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Frank Grass will meet with each of these states' adjutant general, who commands the state National Guard when it isn't federalized. These officers will be "expected to comply with both lawful direction and DOD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions," the secretary said.

[READ: Memo Outlines Pentagon's New Plan for Same-Sex Benefits]

"Whether they are responding to natural disasters here at home, in their states, or fighting in Afghanistan, our National Guardsmen all wear the uniform of the United States of America," Hagel said, adding they are all entitled to the benefits and respect accorded to active duty troops.

In his speech, Hagel also addressed a new military aid package to Israel, first announced in April. Israel will become the first foreign nation to purchase the U.S. military's V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, used primarily by the Marine Corps and, to a much more limited extent, by Air Force commandos. The April announcement also included selling fighter jets to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The U.S. will accelerate its production of six aircraft to send to Israel, putting those before the Ospreys on the assembly line heading to the Marine Corps.

"There are no margins for Israel," Hagel said. "We continue to face a complicated and volatile world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Middle East, where the United States and our allies are facing an unprecedented set of complex challenges."

The secretary cited the ongoing turmoil in Syria and political unrest in Egypt, which has prompted "unprecedented cooperation between the United States and Israel." This latest deal is important to improve Israel's "qualitative military edge" in response to these growing threats, he said.

"The Israeli and American defense relationship is stronger than ever, and it will continue to strengthen," he said.

 

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