West Virginia's first openly gay legislator believes the Department of Defense may have been too hasty in its criticism of West Virginia and the West Virginia National Guard.
Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, said in a statement Thursday that he had requested information from state National Guard leaders regarding the state's implementation of the Department of Defense's benefits for spouses, including issuing ID cards for same-sex spouses, and was briefed on the matter.
The Department of Defense began providing benefits to same-sex spouses of military members following the Supreme Court's ruling that parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) were unconstitutional. The Department of Defense alerted bases and other installments Aug. 15 that same-sex spouses were to be issued ID cards starting Sept. 3.
But there were several states, including West Virginia, that were not allowing same-sex couples the same benefits as other couples, including providing the identification cards, according to the Pentagon.
Skinner said he believed the Department of Defense may have "prematurely criticized" the state without understanding the review the National Guard would need to complete.
"West Virginia took the appropriate steps to review the implementation issues while respecting the rights of service members," Skinner said in a statement. "I have great respect for the history and tradition of professionalism of the West Virginia National Guard."
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said last week in a speech during the Anti-Defamation League's Centennial celebration in New York that he expected the states to comply with the Department of Defense's order and would take action if they did not.
One ID card already was processed for a same-sex spouse in Martinsburg before Hagel's speech, Lt. Col. Melissa Shade, a spokeswoman for the West Virginia National Guard, said last week.
Lawrence Messina, communications director for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, cited a state law that said the Guard is governed and organized in accordance with the laws and regulations of the federal government.
"The West Virginia National Guard's commitment to its service members is reflected in its efforts to facilitate every request it has received," Messina said Thursday. "As state law provides for the National Guard to be governed and administered in accordance with federal law and regulations it will continue to defer to the U.S. Defense Department directive on this subject."
According to a weekend Gazette-Mail article, same-sex spouse IDs were being granted at the state's four federal installations -- in Martinsburg, Charleston and Sugar Grove -- but not at the state-run installations. The state does not recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.cr...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.