LOUISIANA: National Guard Tweaks Rules To Allow Benefits Registration

Via the Associated Press:

National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Kazmierzak said Thursday that federal employees will handle benefit enrollment requests for same-sex couples at Guard sites around Louisiana, so service members don’t have to travel to federal military installations for processing. Kazmierzak said the U.S. Property and Fiscal Officer in Louisiana, who handles federal property and federal financing for the state National Guard, will move some Guard employees to federal personnel status to deal with the benefit enrollments. It’s an employment classification tweak that allows state officials to say their employees aren’t violating a state prohibition of gay marriage, but that also puts Louisiana in line with a Pentagon directive issued in September permitting same-sex benefits for service members.

Equality Louisiana reacts via press release:

This is a great day for married National Guard members in our state, and another small step down the road to equality for all married couples. While the Louisiana National Guard had initially required that LGB service members apply for spousal benefits only at federal installations such as Ft. Polk or Barksdale Air Force Base, the Secretary of Defense has indicated that such a policy illegally creates hardship and inequality for service members in same-sex marriages. Now, in response to the Pentagon’s directive and similar actions taken by other states, the Louisiana National Guard has removed the last remaining barriers to access. Federal funds and personnel will be used to process benefits applications for service members in same-sex marriages, satisfying Louisiana’s constitutional requirements while ensuring that all service members receive equal treatment in the application process.