Indiana National Guard disputes Hagel's comments

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
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The Indiana National Guard is disputing comments made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that it was refusing Defense Department identification cards to same-sex spouses of military members.

Secretary Hagel did not specify the states, but the Pentagon has cited nine, including Indiana, for violating their obligations under federal law. Hagel said those states were creating hardship and inequality by forcing legally married gay partners to travel to federal military bases to get the ID cards to which they are entitled.

The other states were Texas, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.

Same-sex spouses of military members became eligible Sept. 3 for the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses.

In a statement Friday, the Indiana National Guard said it does not violate federal law and has not refused same-sex benefits to Indiana National Guardsmen. But it did admit to a one-month delay.

"The Indiana National Guard started processing same-sex benefits on Oct. 3. The delay in processing benefits was due to the Indiana National Guard conferring with the Indiana attorney general's office in order to understand the impact of these new benefits on state-active duty, where state funds are used to pay service members" said Lt. Col. Cathleen Van Bree, spokesperson for the Indiana National Guard.

"The decision was never made to not process benefits, rather the decision was delayed in order to fully understand the impacts while service members serve in different pay categories," she said. "The National Guard has a dual mission as we respond to both state and federal missions."

The statement went on to say that the Indiana National Guard welcomes diversity in its ranks, with Indiana's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, sending this message to troops in an August email:

"With the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' we can now be a diverse in regards to sexual orientation," wrote Umbarger. This diversity is a necessity and makes us stronger. The sum is greater than our individual parts. Our mission success depends on the diversity of the Indiana National Guard throughout our ranks and our employees."