Herald-Leader Editorial

Ky. Guard owed equal benefits; Beshear right to cover same-sex couples

November 19, 2013 

Gov. Steve Beshear

Kentucky is doing the right thing, thanks to Gov. Steve Beshear's decision allowing National Guard benefits for same-sex spouses.

The same can't be said of five other states that are citing their state bans on same-sex marriage as justification for discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

The states' rights crowd will probably get its day in court. And some politicians may still find it advantageous to insist civilization will crumble if people of the same gender marry.

But those tirades have worn thin.

Most states have laws or constitutional amendments against gay marriage; Kentucky voters approved one in 2004. But, like Kentucky, the majority of states are not obstructing benefits to same-sex spouses of National Guard members.

We'd venture to say that most Americans — including those in Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Texas, the states that are obstructing the policy — feel no threat whatsoever from loving relationships between people they've never met.

Same-sex couples may legally marry in 15 states. And a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year struck down the Defense of Marriage Act's ban on recognition of same-sex marriages by the U.S. government.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel subsequently ordered that active-duty Guard members are entitled to the same benefits as all federal employees and military members.

These include health care benefits for spouses, larger housing allowances for married couples and clearance for spouses to shop at military commissaries.

The federal government provides the funding for Guard salaries and benefits, and the president has the power to call up National Guard units which are also commanded by governors.

In the states that are defying Hagel's directive, Guard members must go to federal military bases to apply for benefits, which, besides being inconvenient, is discriminatory and demeaning.

The Guard is on the front lines not just in times of domestic disaster but also in hot spots around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

No one, least of all those who protect us, should be treated as a second-class citizen because of sexual orientation.

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