The National Guard of Indiana has said that same-sex couples were not denied benefits following a Pentagon directive, but that the measure was simply delayed.

Responding to criticism by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday, the Indiana National Guard said the issue of ID cards to the spouses of same-sex National Guard members had begun being processed on 3 October, but that they ahd been delayed prior to that.

Hagel on Friday criticised nine US states for failing to grant full spousal benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian members of America’s armed forces.

“This is wrong and causes divisions among our ranks,” Mr Hagel told an audience at the Anti-Defamation League in New York.

Lietenant Colonel Cathleen Van Bree, responded on behalf of the Indiana National Guard, saying that the state began processing applications from same-sex couples on 3 October.

“The delay in processing benefits was due to the Indiana National Guard conferring with the Indiana attorney general’s office in order to understand the impact of these new benefits on state-active duty, where state funds are used to pay service members,” Van Bree said in a statement.

“The decision was never made to not process benefits; rather the decision was delayed in order to fully understand the impacts while service members serve in different pay categories. The National Guard has a dual mission as we respond to both state and federal missions.”

Van Bree also went on to point to a statement by Major General R Martin Umbarger to troops in August, in highlighting the celebration of diversity.

“This diversity is a necessity and makes us stronger,” Umbarger said. “The sum is greater than our individual parts. Our mission success depends on the diversity of the Indiana National Guard throughout our ranks and our employees.”

Equal marriage is currently banned under Indiana law. The Legislature in the state is debating over amendments to the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships.