“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” the official said.
Guard officials are left in a bind, as they are under state control but federal money supports many of their activities as part-time reserve forces for the Army and Air Force.
There are more than 13,000 Guardsmen in Georgia and more than 70 Guard facilities in the state, but the vast majority of funding comes from the federal government.
“We’re caught in that catch-22: Do we violate federal law or do we violate state law?” said Brig. Gen. John King, Director of the Joint Staff of the Georgia National Guard. “You can’t win.”
King said he expected more “clarification” soon from the state on how to resolve the issue.
The showdown is a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision this year to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, leading federal agencies including the military to grant benefits to same-sex married couples.
But those couples can only get married in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Georgia voters overwhelmingly approved a ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.
After the June ruling, the Department of Defense updated its ID card system in September to allow same-sex spouses.
Hagel went after the defiant states in a speech Thursday night to the Anti-Defamation League in New York.
“Not only does this violate the states’ obligations under federal law, but 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.
“This is wrong. It causes division among our ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DOD has fought to extinguish, as has the ADL.”