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Va. National Guard extends benefits to gay couples despite state marriage ban

Va. National Guard extends benefits to gay couples despite state marriage ban

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard said Friday it is complying with a Defense Department policy on extending benefits to qualified spouses of gay service members.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said legally married same-sex partners of Virginia Guard members will be eligible for the same federal benefits as opposite-sex married couples.

Media outlets reported that the move came after Virginia state Del. Bob Marshall urged McDonnell to defy the federal directive.

The conservative Republican from Prince William County urged the governor to follow the examples of states such as Texas and Louisiana, where the Guard commanders have refused to comply with federal guidelines because of the states’ bans on same-sex marriage.

Marshall is the state lawmaker who led efforts to derail the judicial nomination of an openly gay Richmond prosecutor because, he said, “sodomy is not a civil right.”

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McDonnell said that 90 percent of the state Guard’s funding comes from the federal government, so Virginia intends to follow the Defense Department’s rules, regulations and policies.

On Wednesday, the Alabama National Guard also said it was following the Pentagon policy and honoring requests for military benefits for same-sex couples, even though they are not legally recognized under state law.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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