Last night during Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's speech to the Anti-Defamation League's centennial dinner, he spoke about some state's decision not to issue military ID cards to the spouses of gay and lesbian soldiers. The speech, however, included one glaring mistake.
While Indiana was listed as a non-complying state, the Indiana National Guard is pushing back and the Department of Defense is acknowledging its mistake.
Lt. Col. Cathleen Van Bree, the spokesperson for the Indiana National Guard, clarified the status of the benefit to gay and lesbian Guard members in a statement to the Indianapolis Star. Officials had asked the state attorney general for clarification on how to implement the benefits.
"The delay in processing benefits was due to the Indiana National Guard conferring with the Indiana attorney general's office in order to understand the impact of these new benefits on state-active duty, where state funds are used to pay service members," Van Bree said in the statement. "The decision was never made to not process benefits; rather the decision was delayed in order to fully understand the impacts while service members serve in different pay categories. The National Guard has a dual mission as we respond to both state and federal missions."
The Department of Defense is now backtracking from the claim that Indiana isn't complying with the order to provide benefits, but is still defending the state's inclusion in the speech. In an emailed statement to Bilerico Project, a senior defense official says "The Indiana National Guard bureau informed the Pentagon in early September that they were not going to issue the ID cards and instead put the action under review by the Attorney General. It is welcome news that they have completed that review and are now complying with DoD policy."
The Indiana National Guard has been accepting applications for ID cards since early October. During a phone conversation the week the policy was implemented, Van Bree told me they were eager to start implementing the policy since the review had been completed favorably and mentioned a message Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger had sent to troops following the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.
"This diversity is a necessity and makes us stronger," Umbarger said. "The sum is greater than our individual parts. Our mission success depends on the diversity of the Indiana National Guard throughout our ranks and our employees."