Same-Sex Benefits
9:40 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Van De Putte And House Dems See National Guard Refusal In Opposite Ways

With Attorney General Greg Abbott now advising the Texas National Guard about the legal side of their refusal to process federal same-sex couple benefits, a group of House Democrats are urging Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the head of the Texas National Guard, to rescind his decision and start processing the benefits.

But the issue is more complex than you might imagine.

"We’re concerned that the Texas National Guard is unilaterally deciding to not implement a national policy based on their interpretation of what Texas Law is," said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, who is one of 16 representatives behind the letter.

Burnam said he thinks there will likely be a lawsuit on the matter in the near future.

But state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, sees the case differently.

"Texas law is pretty clear and I for one am thankful to Gen. Nichols," Van De Putte said. "He wanted to make sure that the Texas Guard -- our fighting forces -- weren’t doing anything that broke the constitution. Now what some people think is the guard members aren’t getting benefits, they are, they just can’t sign up at the guard office."

Van De Putte said Nichols’ hands are tied by the Texas Constitution, which bans same-sex marriage on any level.

"Now I, for one, didn’t agree with it and voted against it, but it is in our constitution," she said. "And until we get a clarification I think it’s prudent for Gen. Nichols to get that opinion from the attorney general’s office."

Van De Putte said she has spoken directly with Nichols, who said he didn’t want to put any of his guardsmen in a situation where they could be sued for violating the state constitution. She also commended the general for providing same-sex couples with the directions and names of facilities they can go to sign up for federal benefits.

In the letter from House Democrats, they are asking Nichols to release all correspondence between his office and Gov. Rick Perry regarding the same-sex benefit issue.