Pentagon chief criticizes states over ID cards for same-sex couples

Reuters

* National Guard militias expected to comply with lawfuldirection

* Hagel says refusal furthers 'prejudice' in the military

* Defense secretary also announces sale of six V-22s toIsrael

By David Alexander

WASHINGTON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagelcriticized nine U.S. states on Thursday for refusing to issueidentity cards to same-sex spouses and said he expected theadjutants general for the state militias to comply with lawfuldirections and Pentagon policy.

Hagel, in remarks prepared for delivery to a Jewish rightsgroup in New York, also announced the United States has agreedto sell Israel six vertical liftoff V-22 Osprey aircraft - thefirst U.S. ally to receive the plane.

Hagel said the Defense Department moved to begin issuingidentity cards to the spouses in same-sex couples following aSupreme Court ruling this year that cleared the way for them toreceive the same work-related benefits given to heterosexualcouples.

"Several states are refusing to issue these IDs to same-sexspouses at National Guard facilities," Hagel told theAnti-Defamation League. "Not only does this violate the states'obligations under federal law, their actions have createdhardship and inequality."

Refusal to issue the cards at state militia facilities meanscouples may have to travel long distances to federal bases toobtain the cards there, Hagel told the centennial dinner of theAnti-Defamation League.

"This is wrong. It causes division among the ranks, and itfurthers prejudice, which DoD (Defense Department) has fought toextinguish," Hagel told the group in remarks honoring hispredecessor, Leon Panetta.

During Panetta's tenure as defense secretary, the Pentagonabandoned its "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays andlesbians from serving openly in the military.

When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense ofMarriage Act on June 26, the department began issuing identitycards to ensure the spouses in same-sex couples would receivethe benefits to which they were entitled.

Before the first cards were issued in September, the stateof Texas announced it would not issue the cards at NationalGuard facilities.

Eight other states have taken similar stances in recentweeks, a senior defense official said: Indiana, Georgia,Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina andWest Virginia. Across the nine states, 114 Army and Air NationalGuard sites are not providing cards, the official said.

Hagel told the ADL he had directed General Frank Grass, theNational Guard chief, to meet with adjutants general from thenine states to deal with the issue.

"The adjutants general will be expected to comply with bothlawful direction and DoD (Defense Department) policy, in linewith the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions," Hagelsaid.

'QUALITATIVE MILITARY EDGE'

Hagel said the agreement to sell Israel six of thetilt-rotor V-22s, built by Bell Helicopter and Boeing,would "greatly enhance the range and effectiveness of theIsraeli special forces."

"I have directed the Marine Corps to make sure this order isexpedited," he said.

During his first visit to the Middle East as defensesecretary earlier this year, Hagel announced $10 billion in armssales to Middle East allies, including 25 F-16 Fighting Falconweapons for the United Arab Emirates as well as other precisionarms for the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

At the same time, Hagel said the United States, which has apolicy of maintaining Israel's "qualitative military edge," haddecided to offer Israel the V-22 aircraft as well as the KC-135refueling airplane.

After its annual budget review earlier this week, Israelsent the Defense Department an official request for six V-22Ospreys, a senior defense official said.

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