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Fla. AG avoids taking a stand on military benefits vs. same-sex marriage ban

Fla. AG avoids taking a stand on military benefits vs. same-sex marriage ban

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Attorney General’s office has declined to offer an opinion on whether the Florida National Guard can process benefits enrollment for the spouses of gay troops on state facilities.

Florida-Natl-Guard-091713At issue is a Pentagon directive that came into effect on Sept. 3, that extended health and housing allowance benefits to same-sex military couples who “provide a valid marriage certificate.”

The Guard is seeking clarification whether processing benefits enrollment for same-sex spouses on state owned Guard property would conflict with Florida’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Major General Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., Adjutant General of the Florida’s National Guard, sought the opinion after National Guard commands in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana declined to process benefits application for same-sex couples, telling their Guard units that same-sex marriage is illegal under state law.

On Friday, the AG’s office ducked the question and said Titshaw’s request for an opinion “provided insufficient information about the connection between the newly announced policy of the United States Secretary of Defense and your official duties as the head of the Florida Department of Military Affairs.”

Gerry Hammond, senior assistant attorney general, wrote that Titshaw should to conduct his own analysis first and then spell out for the attorney general’s office “the actions the new federal policy requires of” the Florida National Guard as well as “how any obligations imposed on you by the federal government might conflict with your duties under state law.”

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Air Force Lt. Colonel James Evans, a spokesman for the Florida National Guard has advised same-sex couples to enroll for benefits at federally controlled military bases in the state.

“The Florida National Guard is required to accept and process same-sex benefit applications at any federal facility managed by federal employees,” Evans told the Miami Herald.

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