Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has cleared the way for the payment of veterans’ benefits to same-sex couples Wednesday but the Texas National Guard (TNG) is not complying with Pentagon’s order to process benefits requested by such couples.
Attorney General Eric Holder informed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other lawmakers in a letter that the DOJ will not enforce a federal statute providing benefits only to opposite-sex couples, referring to Title 38 of the United States Code.
Holder said Obama directed not to enforce the statute, which prevents benefits from being given to the spouses of gay and lesbian veterans, in response to the June ruling of the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA denied benefits to same-sex couples married in states that allowed it.
Holder also said in the letter that a district court found the definition of spouse under Title 38 unconstitutional on Fifth Amendment grounds.
Earlier, the Department of Veterans Affairs said no court has ruled Title 38 unconstitutional.
The New York-based Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Missouri-based Veterans of Foreign Wars welcomed the DOJ’s pronouncement and called for the quick payment of the benefits.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces said the Defense Department’s policy requiring the military to treat all marriages equally conflicts with the Texas Constitution and the state’s “Family Code.”
“Due to this potential conflict, we are unable to enroll same-sex families … at our state-supported facilities until we receive legal clarification,” Nichols said, according to Washington Post.
The TNG is seeking guidance from the attorney general’s office while Nichols suggested that affected couples enroll for benefits at one of the state’s 20-odd federal installations.
The American Military Partner Association (AMPA) decried the TNG’s refusal to process benefits of its members. AMPA is the nation’s premier resource and support network for the partners and spouses of lesbian gay bisexual transgender (LGBT) troops and veterans.
AMPA president Stephen Peters said the policy is discriminatory. The group, in its website, is conducting an online signature campaign to tell Governor Rick Perry to stop playing politics with military families in Texas.