Georgia National Guard to grant identity cards to same-sex spouses

ATLANTA Tue Dec 10, 2013 11:06am EST

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - Same-sex spouses of Georgia National Guard members will be able to receive military identity cards, leaving Mississippi as the only state yet to comply with a U.S. Defense Department directive to grant access to benefits for married couples.

The identity cards for gay and lesbian spouses in Georgia will be processed only at federally operated Guard facilities because its constitution prohibits same-sex marriage, the state Department of Defense said on Tuesday.

"This process will ensure compliance with the Georgia Constitution while also creating an avenue to federally recognized benefits," the department said in a statement.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a directive this fall for state military units to supply identity cards to same-sex spouses so they could begin receiving benefits offered to married couples.

Obtaining a military identity card allows spouses to use military commissaries and to be included on health insurance plans offered by the Guard, Georgia Guard spokesman Thomas Lesnieski said.

Georgia was among nine U.S. states that initially refused to comply. Several Republican-led states accused the Obama administration of using the military as a pawn in its bid to force social change.

Mississippi remains the final holdout. The National Guard is "working closely" with the state on the issue, spokesman Paul Mouilleseaux said.

In September 2011, the Pentagon dropped its "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

The Defense Department began issuing identity cards to ensure same-sex spouses received the benefits to which they were entitled after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on June 26.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lisa Von Ahn)

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