As of Tuesday, members of the military who have same-sex spouses can now begin claiming benefits for their partners, but not all servicemembers will have the same access. The Texas National Guard has already asserted that state law applies, and since Texas bans same-sex marriage, couples will not be eligible for spousal benefits at state facilities.
According to a memo from Texas Military Forces (TXMF), same-sex families will have to enroll at federal facilities and spouses will not be able to access any services at state facilities, regardless of how far away a federal office might be:
The TXMF is a state agency under the authority and direction of the Texas state government. Therefore, the TXMF must consider that the Texas Constitution and Texas Family Code 6.204 conflicts with the DoD policy extending benefits to same-sex spouses. Due to this potential conflict, we are unable to enroll same-sex families into DEERs at our state supported facilities until we receive legal clarification. However, the TXMF remains committed to ensuring its military personnel and their families receive the benefits to which they are entitled. As such, we courage anyone affected by this issue to enroll for benefits at a federal installation.
This is only the latest conflict between state and federal law since the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act in June. Fortunately, the federal government’s recognition of marriages from other state still applies; the Texas state government is simply left discriminating against its own servicemembers.
Most federal spousal benefits are recognizing the “place of celebration” for same-sex marriages, ensuring that the benefits do not disappear should the couple reside in a state that does not recognize their legal union. One prominent exception to this is Social Security benefits, which will only be available in states that recognize same-sex marriages, though couples have been invited to apply.