Pentagon Condones On-Base Spouse’ Group Barring Lesbian
The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it won’t get involved in a case where Army officials from Fort Bragg in North Carolina have allowed its spouses club to refuse membership to a lesbian woman who is legally married to an Army lieutenant, BuzzFeed reports.
Earlier this month it was reported that Ashley Broadway, who recently tied the knot with Lt. Col. Heather Mack, was prohibited from joining the spouses’ club at Fort Bragg. At the time, she was that told the reason was because she doesn’t have a military ID card -- which, to use a good old military term, in a nice case of Catch-22, is only available to straight couples.
Pentagon spokesperson Nathan Christensen gave as the reason for declining to intervene a 2008 policy, called 1000.15, that has not been revised since "Don’t Ask, Don’t Telll" was repealed in 2011. The rule ensures that "non-federal entities" operating on U.S. military locations cannot discriminate based on "race, color, creed, sex age, disability, or national origin." It does not, however, include state sexual orientation or gender identity.
When a private group "asks for authority to operate on a base, it must comply with all applicable D[epartment] O[f] D[efense] instructions and directives and laws, in this case 1000.15," Christensen told BuzzFeed.
A spokesman for Fort Bragg, Ben Abel, added that the spouses group is "not in violation of the law in the way that they are operating now."
"The Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses is one of the private organizations that operates on the installation because the garrison commander has determined that they do provide a service to the post through sponsor[ing] events on the post that are of benefit to the community," Abel said. "The Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses, to the judgment that we have here at Fort Bragg, are not in violation of federal discrimination laws because federal discrimination laws don’t extend to sexual orientation."
Gay activists and out-servicepersons advocates have slammed Fort Bragg’s decision to ban Broadway. OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson called out the base’s commander, Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, for, in her words, "doubling down on anti-gay discrimination in his community." She told BuzzFeed how "very disappointed" she is in Allyn and his command.
Broadway and Mack have been a couple for 15 years, were married in November and have a two-year-old son. According to British newspaper the Daily Mail, Mack is eight months pregnant with the couple’s second child.
"After ’Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ I thought, ’Wow, I can finally be part of something, finally give back to the military community in ways other than just writing a check,’" Broadway said. "So it was a blow. A real blow. Here, I thought things were progressing. I was knocked back down."
Broadway wrote an open letter to the spouses’ club in December that explained her personal commitment to the military. She noted that she had attended all of her wife’s promotion ceremonies and has tutored Army children. She’s also volunteered with the Humane Societies and helped military members in finding homes for their pets while they are overseas.
Last week the Associated Press reported that the Marine Corps advised its legal staff that spouses club operating on its installations are required to accept same-sex spouses if they want to remain on the bases.
"The Marine Corps putting its best foot forward is great news," Stephen Peters of the American Military Partner Association, an organization for partners and spouses of LGBT service members, said. "They’re being proactive about this." He said his group would urge the Pentagon to implement a measure that would impact all branches of the military and would allow same-sex spouses to join the clubs, adding, "You can’t have different standards with the different branches."
After BuzzFeed questioned Abel about the Marines’ decision, he said, "We don’t make arbitrary decisions here at Fort Bragg. We get guidance from the Army and the Department of Defense. I cannot tell you why the Marines did what they did. I don’t know anything more than you do from what I’ve seen in the press."
For her part, Robinson isn’t buying Abel’s response. She dismissed his response to Buzzfeed as "a very defensive final answer on the matter from General Allyn and from his command."