An article in Sunday’s New York Times described a recent incident at the Texas National Guard post Camp Mabry in Austin. Alicia Butler and her wife, Judith Chedville, who is a Texas Army National Guard officer went to the post to get a military spouse ID card for Alicia and to register for military benefits as a married couple. The couple presented a valid California marriage certificate and, responding to a directive from US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, were seeking full recognition and military benefits afforded to other married couples in the military.
But Alicia and Judith were not given the requested ID, and were instead directed to the nearest Federal military base in Fort Hood, a 140 mile round-trip.
Their explanation was simply that Texas law did not recognize same-sex marriage and the Texas National Guard was a state run agency. In other words, they simply ignored federal law in favor of state legislation. That my friend is the textbook definition of “Nullification.” Ron Paul has been in the news recently, advocating for nullification and states rights in defiance of Obamacare and any other federal laws that people just don’t like. Nullification and states rights claims were also a major factor in the slavery issue in 1860 that ultimately led to the Civil War.
Texas is one of six states which are currently not in compliance with federal law and are denying National Guard military benefits to same-sex spouses. Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oklahoma have also taken the position that State National Guard facilities fall under the domain of state government, and are, therefore, not bound by federal laws (nullification). These states are directing same-sex applicants to, sometimes distant, federal facilities to get their credentials.
This story is important on two counts. One, it is yet another example of allowing local bigotry to openly discriminate against members of the LGBT community. And two, nullification is the same thinking that supported Jim Crow laws in the deep south in the 1950s and that allowed slavery to flourish in the early 19th century. It has been said, that some moral issues cannot and should not be decided by popular vote, and that is what the states rights proponents would like.
The office of the Secretary of Defense is taking a slow and measured response to the six rogue states in this matter in an effort to avoid a volatile confrontation. But in the final analysis, almost all funding for state National Guard personnel and facilities comes directly from the federal government. And although this should be a simple choice of fairness over bigotry, the money may well trump integrity in this battle.