S.C. National Guard complies with same-sex benefits policy

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- The South Carolina National Guard has processed at least one request for extending benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members since the Department of Defense policy went into effect in September.The policy, which went into effect on Sept. 3, also extends benefits to same-sex spouses of defense civilian employees."We have no reports of anyone being denied benefits," said Col. Ronald Taylor, director of Service Member and Family Care Programs for the SC National Guard. "Additionally, our ID card section has responded to at least four inquiries from members to learn procedures to enroll."The SC National Guard has in its ranks both federal employees and state employees, who work in federal facilities and state-owned facilities. The state's constitution contains a provision prohibiting the state, or its political subdivisions, from recognizing same-sex unions.

Concerns were raised the use of state-owned facilities to process initial enrollment for same-sex military Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) beneficiary-related requests would violate the state constitution.

To ensure all Service Members are treated equally, all new union enrollments of beneficiaries in DEERs, regardless of status, are being processed at their federal facilities. These facilities are located at McEntire Joint National Guard Base and the McCrady Training Center in Eastover, and the Donaldson Center, USAR in Greenville. Other federal facilities available in South Carolina include Fort Jackson, Joint Base Charleston or Marine Corps facilities at Parris Island/Beaufort. "I must support the policy directed by the Department of Defense to assist our military members, including that we ensure fairness and equal treatment, and that we take care of all our service members each of whom has made sacrifices for our state and nation," said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., The Adjutant General for South Carolina. "This decision to use only federal facilities should avoid policy and legal concerns under the state's constitution, while treating all of our Service Members with the dignity and respect that they deserve."