Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wants to make it perfectly clear: states don’t have the right not to deny marriage benefits to same-sex military personnel. In a strongly worded remarks delivered at an Anti-Defamation League dinner, Hagel displayed frustration and anger at the games some states are playing with National Guard personnel. Nine states will not allow those personnel to apply for marriage benefits at state National Guard offices, instead forcing them to travel to federal sites, often hours away.

“This is wrong,” Hagel said. “Not only does this violate the states’ obligation under federal law, their actions have created hardship and inequality by forcing couples to travel long distances to federal military bases to obtain the ID cards they’re entitled to.”

Hagel said that he is instructing the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to “take immediate action to remedy this situation.” Grass will meet with the adjutants general for the nine states and tell them that they “will be expected to comply” with Pentagon policy.

The problem is that the adjutants generals work for the governors, so the question will be where their loyalties lie: with the military or with the person who can boot them out of their job. The states involved: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. If you’re keeping tabs, that’s eight Republican governors and one Democrat (West Virginia) in name only.

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