Fallin halts all spouse benefit applications at state-owned National Guard facilities

RESPONSE

Gov. Mary Fallin: She says the decision complies with federal policies as well as state law on same-sex couples.

OKLAHOMA CITY —- Oklahoma will stop processing all military spouse benefit applications at state-owned National Guard facilities rather than begin accepting the applications from same-sex spouses, Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday.

Instead, military spouse applications, including those of same-sex couples, will only be accepted at four federally owned National Guard bases: the Air National Guard bases in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, the Regional Training Institute in Oklahoma City and Camp Gruber.

The applications are already being processed at the state's five U.S. military installations: Fort Sill, Tinker Air Force Base, Altus Air Force Base, Enid Air Force Base and the McAlester ammunition plant.

The Fallin administration's decision appears to be in defiance of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's directive to process the applications of all spouses, regardless of sex, although Fallin maintained her solution complies with all "federal rules or policies."

Fallin said the decision was reached in consultation with Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

"Oklahoma law is clear," Fallin said in a statement.

"The state of Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriages, nor does it confer marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The decision reached today allows the National Guard to obey Oklahoma law without violating federal rules or policies. It protects the integrity of our state constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people."

Although Oklahoma owns most of the state's National Guard armories and training centers, the facilities were built almost entirely with federal funds.

The federal government provides about 90 percent of the budget for the Oklahoma Military Department, which includes the National Guard.

Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality, blasted Fallin, saying, "The governor is sending the message that Oklahoma desires to be an island of prejudice and continues to uphold laws crafted out of fear and drafted by bigots and hypocrites.

"Once again she has insulted our citizen soldiers who daily stand in harm's way for the people of Oklahoma," Jenkins said.

The current controversy began in early September, when the Defense Department said it would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in states where such unions are recognized. This followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision that all legal marriages, regardless of the spouses' genders, must be honored by the federal government.

The Oklahoma National Guard initially complied with the DoD policy, then stopped after Fallin said that doing so violated the Oklahoma Constitution.

Oklahoma adopted a marriage definition amendment in 2004.

Last week, Hagel ordered Oklahoma and eight other states refusing to accept same-sex applications at National Guard facilities to do so immediately.

One of the eight, Indiana, immediately complied.


Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365

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