Citing a voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in her state, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin ordered the state's National Guard to stop processing benefits requests for same-sex couples. That makes Oklahoma, after Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the fourth state to go against a federal directive requiring agencies to grant legally-married same-sex couples the benefits any married couple would receive.
But unlike the three other states refusing to process military gay marriage benefit requests through their National Guard agencies, the governor's seems to override a previous decision by the state's National Guard to go ahead and process requests from legally-married same-sex couples, just like any other married couple. According to the Associated Press, the Oklahoma National Guard has already helped two same-sex military couples apply for federal benefits. Earlier this summer, in fact, the state's National Guard indicated that they intended to follow federal law on benefits applications. But based on Fallin's new directive, any other couples seeking those benefits will have to go to a federal facility in the state in order to apply, instead of through the state's National Guard. The example given by the Governor's office: Tinker Air Force Base.
Oklahoma has pretty strict anti-gay marriage laws: not only are same-sex marriages against the law, but the state does not recognize legal same-sex marriages from other states. Plus, couples are denied the benefits, under state law, that would go to opposite-sex married couples. And the state even has a provision preventing a New Mexico-style revolt of county clerks who might issue a license anyway to a same-sex couple: doing so in Oklahoma is a misdemeanor. Those limitations seem to come into conflict with federal directives in the wake of the Supreme Court's Defense of Marriage Act decision that grant same-sex, legally married couples the right to federal marriage benefits. And Oklahoma isn't the only state fighting it out with the federal government over the change.
In Texas, the Texas Military Forces (which represents the state's National Guard organizations) decided not to accept benefits applications from gay troops. And as in Oklahoma, that means legally-married gay couples will have to find a federal facility in order to have their request processed. Mississippi and Louisiana's National Guard groups are going by a similar set of rules. Those denials aren't always limited to military benefits, either, in Louisiana, the state won't recognize same-sex marriages on its tax forms, even though state law requires the same filing status on state and federal tax forms, and the IRS will now allow gay couples to file jointly. The National Guards in two other states that ban gay marriage — Florida and Michigan — will process benefits applications anyway, at least for now.