Well, we knew it would happen but I had honestly hoped that it wouldn't. A legally married spouse has been denied membership to the Association of Ft. Bragg Officers Spouses because her partner is a woman. Yep, no gay or lesbian spouses in the spouses club... not at Fort Bragg anyway.
This story came out yesterday when the spouse in question, Ashley Broadway, wrote an impassioned open letter to the Ft. Brag Officer Spouses Club (OSC) asking them to reconsider. They basically told her she didn't 'qualify.'
You tell me... here is a screenshot from the Ft. Bragg OSC website. Should Ashley qualify?
You know, military folks, spouses included, always rely on the rules and regs and I have no doubt that is exactly what the democratically elected board that governs this OSC decided to do when they denied Ashley membership. I've sat boards like these and unless you have a strong advisor (usually a Colonel's or General's wife) recommending that you accept the membership, the elected board (usually Major's wives and below) wouldn't dare to vote otherwise. Yes, I've used the word wives. Although a few men serve as members in many of these clubs, let's face it, the woman are still making the decisions. Except that their rules and regs didn't cover this situation.
So these women would have contacted the Judge Advocate General (JAG) and asked for legal advisement. And they would only do this if they wanted to deny membership. Accepting a member would have been easy as pie. Denying members means they need to make sure they can't get sued.
To cover their asses, these women at the Ft. Bragg OSC have added a new requirement to membership - you need an active ID card. This isn't in their by-laws, so the addition came recently, so recently in fact that it didn't exist when Ashley made her original application. I think the JAG made the recommendation and these woman jumped at it.
Unfortunately for Ashley, she can't get a dependent ID card. You see, a law called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), prevents legally married gay spouses from receiving a Federal Military ID Card. Until DOMA is repealed, Ashley not only won't get an ID Card, she also doesn't have base access unless someone else with an ID Card signs her on, she has no commissary or PX privileges, she cannot use the military health care system or the insurance program TRICARE, she has no survivor benefits, no rights to support when her wife deploys, and would probably have great difficulty handling any financial emergency if her wife was deployed, even with a power of attorney. I'm not sure anyone in uniform would give her the time of day.
You might wonder what this means for the couple's children. The Officer Spouses Club is a huge support system for families - the friendships developed between those moms and dads at club events pushes into daily military life. It's where you meet the other parents who can help watch kids when you have doctor's appointments or have to take the car to the shop or, heaven forbid, have to take a kid to the emergency room and just need someone to hold your hand.
When the women at the Ft. Bragg Officer Spouses' Association refused membership to Ashley, they also denied her and her family all the benefits that come with that membership. They are being greedy and selfish. They think they are protecting themselves from some poison (ahhh, the gays are here! what are we going to do!) They don't seem to understand that they are denying themselves the opportunity to expand their membership to include a wonderful woman who just wants all the same things they want for their families - safety for their active duty spouses, friendship for themselves, and happy lives for their children.
And just how do I now that Ashley is wonderful? Because all military spouses are wonderful until they prove otherwise. In fact, I agree with Ft. Bragg OSC statement on their website:
Joining ABOS will connect you to an amazing, energetic, inspirational, supportive, and diverse group of Military Spouses.I wonder if they see the irony?
If you would like to help Ashley gain membership to this group, you can sign the petition at The American Military Partner Association. You might want to use some of the words from the webpage of the Ft. Bragg OSC pictured above.
And, Ashley, if you read this, I am so sorry. I am a Colonel's wife who currently does not belong to an OSC. It's been a while (these one year assignments aren't helping) but if I was sitting on one of the Boards, believe me, they wouldn't have denied your membership so easily. If there is anything I can do, please let me know.
Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 4:49 AM PT: Scott Wooledge notes in a comment below that a working group at the Pentagon has determined that DOMA does not prevent the DoD from issuing dependent ID cards to same sex spouses.
Although organizations like OutServe-SLDN have repeatedly asked the Pentagon to expand benefits to include ID cards for same-sex spouses of servicemembers, the government has taken no action on the issue since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" nearly 15 months ago.
LGBT rights advocates have noted that even the Pentagon working group assigned to handle the issue has said dispensing ID cards to same-sex couples would not run afoul of the Defense of Marriage Act.
In June, outgoing Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson acknowledged that "[t]he repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' exposes certain inequalities between similarly situated couples in the military community," adding that it "troubles many of our leaders." Addressing the ongoing review of which benefits could be extended to gay and lesbian couples, he told this reporter, "It's coming along. We'll get it done."