TX Guard: Same-sex benefits unconstitutional


by Heather Kovar / KVUE News and photojournalist CHRIS SHADROCK

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherK_KVUE


Posted on September 4, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 5 at 5:36 PM

Do you think the Texas Guard should offer same-sex benefits to employees?

AUSTIN -- Same-sex marriages are now recognized by the Department of Defense, and Tuesday marked the first day partners could enroll for benefits.

However those stationed at Camp Mabry are being told to apply at a federal installation since the state-run center can’t process the paperwork.

Austin resident Alicia Butler and her partner Judith Cedville weathered some hard years back when Cedville was deployed to Iraq.

“I can't tell you what an isolating experience it is to be the spouse of a service member who is in a combat zone or situation where they are in danger. And you have no official avenues for contact to find out what is going on with them,” said Butler.

In June the U.S. Supreme Court declared the section of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act that prevented federal recognition of same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

Based on that decision, the Department of Defense extended spouse and family benefits to same-sex partners.

Butler and Cedville wanted to register as soon as possible.

“She has drill just this weekend. We have to remember my partner does the same thing that was going on when Hasan came and shot people at Fort Hood,” Butler said.

At Camp Mabry where Cedville serves in the Texas Army National Guard, they were told the Department of Defense policy conflicts with the Texas Constitution. And since it's a state agency, they'd have to apply elsewhere.

The Texas Military forces declined an on-camera interview but sent a statement that soldiers and airmen are not being denied any benefit. They say there are multiple federal locations where they can go and enroll for same-sex benefits.

Butler says the closest federal facilities are 70 miles from their house, and the earliest appointment she could get was Sept. 17.

It’s an inconvience that brings concern.

“If the state is going to behave this way about something this minor, as just processing my paper into the computer, I'm really concerned about how they'll treat us when bigger issues come up,” Butler said.