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Queer Talk: Ft. Bragg Discriminates Against Same-Sex Spouse of Officer

As significant as the repeal of DADT was, as long as DOMA is in place, this kind of thing will likely keep happening.

Zack Ford, at Think Progress:

The Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses, the military spouses group at Ft. Bragg, has offered a “guest membership” to Ashley Broadway, the same-sex spouse of Lt. Col. Heather Mack who they blocked last month from joining. In fact, the group arbitrarily changed its rules to require an active ID card – a benefit same-sex spouses are not currently afforded – specifically to keep her from being eligible.

Stephen Peters, executive director of the American Military Partner Association, responded:(emphasis added)

Both the Ft. Bragg leadership and Pentagon have refused to take accountability for allowing the spouses’ group’s discrimination to persist and the Army has remained silent. The organization is private and is not obligated to abide by the Defense of Marriage Act, so the anti-gay discrimination is totally of its own accord. Meanwhile, the Marines responded by prohibiting such discrimination on their bases.

The obvious discrimination, and the rather narrow, or maybe just bizarre and convoluted reasoning, is being met with pressure and demands. From HRC: (emphasis added)

HRC Calls On Secretary Panetta to Immediately Green Light Military IDs for Same-Sex Spouses: ‘Foot Dragging’ on Changes to Regulations Has Gone on for Two Years; Resulted In Continued Discriminatory and Uneven Treatment

‘It makes no sense that the spouse of a service member can face discrimination in one branch of the Armed Services yet be protected from discrimination in another. This situation would not have occurred if the Pentagon was not dragging its heels on updating military regulations to include the families of gay service members,’ said HRC President Chad Griffin. ‘While there are many regulations the Pentagon needs to update to support the families of gay service members, we call on Secretary Panetta to immediately issue military regulations that will allow the spouses and partners of gay service members access to a military ID. This benefit is crucial to accessing many of the benefits and services offered to military families.’

Initially, the Association claimed that the spouse of the Army officer did not qualify for membership because she did not have a military ID card. Stunningly, the Association now claims, with the Army’s backing, that they can deny the officer’s spouse membership because federal law allows them to discriminate against gay individuals.

From NBC News, more about the by-the-book reasoning:

‘The Officer Spouses’ Club at Ft. Bragg is in compliance with the DOD instruction,’ … (Pentagon spokesperson Nathan) Christensen said. “When you look at the instruction there are a few things it has to meet. As long as they meet those criteria, they’re allowed to meet on the base.’

Lt. Col. Heather Mack and Ashley Broadway married in November, after the repeal of DADT. They’ve been together for 15 years, have a 2-year-old son, with a second child due this month.

… Broadway said the Pentagon’s position only added fuel to a larger battle for equal rights being waged within the U.S. military by other same-sex spouses.

‘This is no longer about me joining this officers club. This is about the Pentagon and the Department of Defense and the Department of Army telling the country that it is OK to discriminate against gay and lesbian service members and their families,’ Broadway told NBC News.

Under DOMA, the DOD, the Pentagon, and in this case, the Army and The Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses, can legally do what they’re doing with those “not like us” same-sex spouses. It seems a rather ethically challenged decision to me, but it’s legal.

From the ABOS website:

The Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses (ABOS) was founded upon four principles: Charity, Friendship, Hospitality, and Support.

At least to this point, in terms of how they are living out their “four principles,” I’d suggest a change: “Charity, Friendship, Hospitality, and Support, unless you’re the same gender as your spouse then we’d really rather you didn’t show up.” Looking at the photo of the association officers, all are women, so maybe the husbands whose wives are Army officers aren’t welcomed, either.

About the Marines responding by “prohibiting such discrimination on their bases” — Semper fi.

(Assc. of Bragg Officers’ Spouses Logo via ABOS)

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4 Responses to Queer Talk: Ft. Bragg Discriminates Against Same-Sex Spouse of Officer

  1. fangio January 19, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    The government can try to regulate how some people behave, but they can’t regulate how people think. Not yet anyway.

  2. Cujo359 January 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    “Looking at the photo of the association officers, all are women, so maybe the husbands whose wives are Army officers aren’t welcomed, either.”

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true, based on my own limited experience. The discussions I remember about those organizations usually implied they were for wives of servicemembers. That may not be what the rules say, but the social environment of the Army, at least, would seem to make that a rule, at least at many bases.

    Nor am I surprised that the Marines aren’t as tied to convention. I worked a lot with the Army, and occasionally with Marines, and the latter always struck me as the more adaptable group.

    • spincitysd January 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      Marines have to be flexible Cujo359, they deal with Sailors, bored sailors, whose main entertainment is messing with Marines. “Marine, we need you to man the Sea Bat watch.” “Marine, we need you to go down to the Bosun’s locker and get fifty feet of chow line.” etc.

      More seriously, there is a culture in the Corpse of “Taking care of our own.” With Gay and Lesbians now part of the broader circle of who is “our own” the Corpse will keep that tradition. The Corpse has always been more mission centric than the Army. They have always had to do more with less, and are proud of it. They take seriously the need for their trigger-pullers to know the home front fires are burning and well tended.

  3. DaGoat January 19, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    My father was a career Air Force office and I was an Air Force officer for 4 years, so I had a little bit of exposure to these clubs. Neither my mother nor my wife ever had any desire to join the Officers Wives Club, as it was called at the time. My mother did join for a while as it was one of those things you did to help your husband get promoted, but hopefully those days are gone. I never cared if my wife joined or not since I am an independent cuss as was my father. The club had kind of an odd hierarchy based on the rank of the husband, some of which was written and some implied. They did do some good things, mainly in welcoming and helping new wives whose husbands had been transferred in.

    I don’t know what they’re like now but my first reaction to the article was to ask why Broadway would want to join in the first place.

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