FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Advocates for openly LGBT American military service members said on Tuesday evening that “speculation is mounting” that an Army lieutenant colonel’s wife is being discriminated against by an organization for spouses of Fort Bragg officers.
Ashley Broadway, who is legally married to her partner, was told she did not qualify for membership in the Fort Bragg Association of Officer’s Spouses, a private, non-profit group not officially associated with the Department of Defense or the federal government.
On Monday, Broadway addressed the alleged discrimination in an open letter posted to the website of the American Military Partner Association.
“I emailed a listed contact for the group and eagerly waited to hear back,” Broadway wrote. “When I did, I was incredibly disappointed to be told I “do not qualify.”
Broadway continued: “I respectfully ask that you reconsider my request to join the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses. Although I have only been a legal spouse since November 10th, I have been in a committed relationship with my spouse since 1997. I have been at every promotion ceremony from First Lieutenant through Lieutenant Colonel. I watched with pride when she took her guideon and began company command, and I was the shoulder she cried on when she had to give it up. I have endured deployments and several TDYs, and I’ll continue to comfort our son and newborn daughter as they watch her leave on the next. When I decided to dedicate myself to my spouse, I knew all too well I was dedicating myself to the Army as well.”
Broadway’s letter also notes that a similar rejection has occurred for another same-sex spouse who was denied entry to the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse’s Club.
In a media release on Tuesday, Army veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson said she would be reaching out to her fellow West Point graduate, Fort Bragg Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn.
“The facts here are simple: there is no legal need or justification for any spouse to be excluded from a group like this, which exists to provide support to the spouses and families of our military men and women and the communities they serve,” said Robinson.
The Fort Bragg spouses’ group is not governed by discriminatory laws like the federal Defense of Marriage Act, notes OutServe-SLDN. The act currently bars the military from offering certain spousal benefits to same-sex spouses. Such restrictions are not mandatory for private spouses’ groups.
“Though the organization operates on Fort Bragg with permission from the Commanding General, the group is not formally affiliated with the military and is not required to bar membership to Ashley,” Robinson said. “In the absence of a reply from the Association, we are left with no option but to reach out to the base’s leadership. General Allyn needs to know if there is discrimination happening against the military families in his community.”
Robinson added: “General Allyn and I both learned in our first weeks at West Point that impartiality is a hallmark of effective leaders. As new cadets, we were both required to commit to memory a quote from General William Jennings Worth, who led American troops in the War of 1812. Worth states that for a commander, ‘to be partial is to dishonor both himself and the object of his ill-advised favor.’ With programs such as these, which are not bound by a federal definition of marriage, commanders like General Allyn should use their influence to ensure all service members’ families are treated equally.”
Late on Tuesday, the Fort Bragg Association of Officer’s Spouses updated its website to add an additional requirement to join the group. The organization now says members must have an “active ID card,” a requirement not included in the group’s bylaws. Due to the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex military spouses are not eligible to receive military identification cards.
The American Military Partners Association is asking supporters to sign a petition in support of Broadway.
UPDATE (Dec. 13, 2012, 12:20 p.m.): The Fort Bragg Association of Officer’s Spouses released a statement on Wednesday addressing the ongoing controversy. In it, the group said it would address the issue at its next board meeting.
This will be our first opportunity for our board to discuss the issue since it has been brought to our attention,” the group said in the release. “We intend to review the request in a timely manner. As an all-volunteer board during this busy holiday season, we request your patience in allowing us to properly address and review this membership issue while fulfilling our obligations to our current membership as well as to our families.”
OutServe-SLDN’s Allyson Robinson said delay was not an option.
“‘Equality can wait’ has never been the answer, but that’s the message the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses is sending with its tepid and dismissive statement today,” Robinson said in a release. “It’s certainly not the answer for Ashley Broadway or the families of gay and lesbian service members at Ft. Bragg and on military installations across the country, who like all our men and women in uniform, need support during the holiday season perhaps more than any other time of the year. The group doesn’t need a meeting; Ashley clearly qualifies under its existing, approved bylaws. It simply needs to accept Ashley into its membership, and it should do so immediately.”