Florida National Guard to give full benefits to same-sex married couples, despite state gay marriage ban

The Florida National Guard has found a way to issue full military benefits to same-sex wedded couples and not violate the state’s gay-marriage ban.

Beginning Tuesday, all married military couples — gay and straight — will apply for and receive health, death and other benefits at federal facilities located within the state.

“In order to meet the state constitution and meet federal intent, we moved the functions from state buildings to federal buildings and we’re in compliance all the way around,” said Lt. Col. James Evans, director of public affairs for Florida National Guard. “We want to ensure that everyone is treated equally and all Florida National Guard members get their benefits in the same place.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the federal government must recognize legally married same-sex couples, the Pentagon adopted a policy that same-sex spouses of military members are eligible for the same healthcare, housing and other benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex spouses.

Florida and eight other states announced they would not implement the Pentagon’s policy, prompting sharp criticism last week from U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

“This is wrong,” Hagel said Thursday in a speech in New York. “Not only does this violate the states’ obligation 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.”

Indiana reversed its decision a few days later. On Monday, Florida announced its compromise.

Seven National Guard facilities in Florida, including Homestead Air Reserve Base, will process benefits, Evans said.

Also, benefits will be processed at U.S. military bases in South Florida including the Southern Command in Doral, Opa-locka and Miramar.

“We are pleased that gay National Guard members won’t have a separate, more difficult process for getting benefits for their spouses,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, the state’s largest gay-rights group. “This move ensures that the same procedure applies regardless of sexual orientation.”

Read more Florida stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category