Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is dispatching the head of the National Guard to states that have refused to allow same-sex couples serving in the armed forces to apply for military benefits.
Hagel criticized the states are defying Pentagon policy that took effect Sept. 3 by preventing their National Guard units from issuing ID cards necessary to claim the benefits.
"Not only does this violate the states' obligations 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 Thursday evening in an address to the Anti-Defamation League in New York.
"This is wrong," Hagel said. "It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which (the Department of Defense) has fought to extinguish."
Hagel said he was dispatching Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, to meet with the adjutants general who run the National Guard outfits in the wayward states.
The Pentagon's move to provide the same benefits to all spouses of military personnel and of some Defense Department civilian employees follows the Supreme Court's June 26 ruling that a ban on gay marriage in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.
It's not clear how many heads of state National Guard units are refusing to grant same-sex benefits.
The Pentagon had previously cited nine states: Florida, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Hagel didn't name the remaining recalcitrant states in his speech Thursday night. But he said they "will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DOD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions."
His reference to "jurisdictions" appeared to include the District of Columbia and at least some of the six U.S. territories that are not states, some of which have National Guard units.
Some of the states that are defying the Pentagon directives point to state laws or state constitutional amendments that ban gay marriage. But some of the other states following the order have similar bans, among them North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, Idaho and Alaska.