The Missouri National Guard is processing requests from same-sex partners for military ID cards that are the gateway to accessing benefits.
A Pentagon policy taking effect in early September makes same-sex spouses of gay military members eligible for health care and other benefits that also are available to opposite-sex partners. It followed the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and does not apply to unmarried gay partners.
Although some states have refused to issue the ID cards at National Guard facilities, the Missouri National Guard processes requests for those who can provide proof of marriage. Spokeswoman Maj. Tammy Spicer said cards have been issued to same-sex spouses but that the exact figure is not available. She said the Missouri National Guard is following Department of Defense policies.
"We are issuing ID cards to anyone who is legally married and that would happen to include same-sex couples," she said. "If you are legally married, you are eligible to get an ID card at the Missouri National Guard."
Gov. Jay Nixon earlier this month directed the state Department of Revenue to accept joint tax filings from same-sex couples who get legally married in another state. Missouri's tax code is tied to that of the federal government, and Nixon said married couples who file joint federal tax returns are required also to file state taxes jointly. Federal tax officials determined legally married same-sex couples would be treated as married regardless of where they live.
The Missouri Constitution does not allow for same-sex marriage. Voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved a measure stating marriages must be between a man and a woman to be valid and recognized in Missouri. It was the first state constitutional amendment restricting gay marriage to come after the Massachusetts Supreme Court permitted it there.
Gay marriage has been legalized in 16 states, including Illinois where it will be allowed starting next summer and in Iowa where the state's high court legalized it. On Missouri's southwestern border, the Oklahoma governor said all marriage benefits would be processed by federal employees at four federally owned National Guard facilities and at the state's five military bases. The governor said that would allow the guard to obey state law without violating federal rules or policies.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a speech last month criticized states that have not issued ID cards at National Guard facilities. He said it has created a hardship by forcing couples to travel to federal military bases and has caused division among the military ranks.