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Sep 9, 2013

N.C. National Guard Recognizes Same-Sex Marriages

Raleigh, N.C. - The North Carolina National Guard announced this week that it will begin recognizing same-sex marriages, a significant policy shift that could have substantial financial impact for North Carolina families not previously eligible for the same federal military benefits awarded to opposite-gender couples.

National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Maury A. Williams told the Associated Press on Monday that the Guard will abide by U.S. Department of Defense orders extending benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members. Williams said couples who wed in states where same-sex marriage is legal can begin applying for benefits immediately. “In accordance with all applicable DOD directives, rules and regulations, we will do our best to facilitate effective and efficient assistance for these service members and their partners,” Williams told the AP.

The Pentagon's policy shift follows this summer's landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," which prevented federal agencies from recognizing the marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

While the ruling impacted federal agencies, National Guard units have dual status as both federal troops and members of state militias, putting them under the command of both the president and the governor of the state where they are located.

As a result, after the U.S. Department of Defense began allowing same-sex couples to apply for identification cards and benefits last week, National Guard officials in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas said they would continue to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to process the applications. All three states have marriage equality bans similar to North Carolina's Constitutional amendment banning all relationship recognitions for same-gender couples living in the state.

"This policy shift represents a historic victory for gay and lesbian members of the North Carolina National Guard and their families, as well as a symbolic victory for all legally-married gay and lesbian couples living and working in North Carolina who are still fighting for their own relationships to be recognized in the state they call home," said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC. "Like National Guard units, currently married gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina have a "dual status:" legally-recognized by their nation, and unfairly marginalized by their state. As a result, we must at once applaud this decision by the National Guard, while also using this momentum to begin ending state-level discrimination against loving, committed couples wherever they live."

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