Texas Matters
3:43 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Battle Brewing Between Texas National Guard & Pentagon Over Same-Sex Partner Benefits

Texas Matters: The issue with the Texas National Guard's refusal to process same-sex couple benefits raises a deciding question: Can the Texas National Guard refuse a Pentagon directive? Also on this show: The Affordable Care Act and undocumented immigrants, insurance premiums with the ACA and Bible verses on high school football banners.

Texas National Guard not processing same-sex couple benefits

This week the Texas National Guard announced it will not provide benefits for same-sex couples, despite a Pentagon directive requiring the military to treat all marriages equally.

Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, said in an internal memo that the Texas Constitution and the state’s "Family Code" conflicts with the Defense Department’s policy.

The Texas National Guard is now requesting guidance from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor and has a long history of fighting against same-sex marriage equality.

Chris Rowzee is the National Guard affairs liaison for the American Military Partners Association.

"They are depriving the spouses and families of these military members from the support that their heterosexual counterparts receive. Just imagine a national guardsman deploying to a hostile fire zone. Bases go out of their way to ensure that family members are fully supported during those periods of time... It is completely a personnel readiness issue and it has an impact on a soldier, or an airman, or a sailor's ability to focus on the job at hand. Certainly when you are in a hostile fire zone, you need to be focusing on the job at hand, not worrying about if your spouse back home is being supported trying to maintain the homefront."

Also on this episode of Texas Matters:

Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Obamacare 101: Undocumented and uninsured

There are nearly six million people in Texas without health insurance. The majority will be able to get coverage when the federally-run marketplace opens a month from now, but not everyone. As KERA’s Lauren Silverman reports, immigrants without documentation are excluded under the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act and insurance premiums

Republicans in Texas have been busy doing all they can to block, stymie and confuse the roll out of the Affordable Care Act. So there’s been a lot of conflicting information about what the program will do and not do – and what impact it will have on the overall economy and household budgets.

A non-partisan Rand Corporation study found that premiums will either stay steady or rise slightly in Texas, but that’s mainly due to the fact that the state did not expand Medicaid. Had they done that, then Texas would have seen a reduction in premiums.

Senior Economist Christine Eibner, co-author of the RAND study:

"For Texas we looked at the amount of premiums in scenarios where we included the Medicaid expansion and scenarios where we excluded the Medicaid expansion. And what we found that was for Texas and for two other states that are not going to expand Medicaid, we found that premiums in the non-group market or the individual market go up slightly if Medicaid is not expanded. The reason is that if Medicaid is not expanded, the exchanges are open to a broader subset of low-income individuals, and some of those individuals have higher spending, and that, in turn, affects the premiums of the overall market."

Separation of Church and Football

The start of the school year means it’s also time for Friday Night Lights and the rituals of local high school football. One such ritual is the hometown gridiron heroes running through a giant paper banner painted by the booster squad and cheerleaders with slogans about team spirit and scoring touchdowns.

But in Kountze, Texas, which is just north of Beaumont near the Louisiana border, the Kountz High School cheerleaders write bible scriptures on the banners and, according to the Texas ACLU, evangelize Christianity.

The American Civil Liberties Union is joining a coalition of religious groups in saying the banners violate the separation of church and state.

Rebecca Robertson is the legal and policy director of the ACLU of Texas.

"They are very expressly Christian messages and you can imagine the position that a football player who is Jewish, or Muslim, or a non-believer would be in if he is forced to decide: 'Should I run through the banner, like all my peers, in front of this huge crowd, or should I take a stand for my beliefs in front of this huge crowd.' That's a terrible position to put kids in, and so that's why we want it to wait."

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