“The dedication of all the Families to support one another and to look after each other when part of the Family is deployed is to me an integral component that is never spoken about here at Fort Bragg. It’s just how the people here are; they look after each other and are compassionate and committed to taking care of each other and each other’s Families. They are the unsung heroes of Bragg and our Army.”These are the words of Lt. General Daniel Allyn, Commander at Ft. Bragg, NC, before his most recent promotion. Sounds like this guy really understood what family support means. But maybe a promotion has addled the General's thought process. He doesn't support gay and lesbian family members, at least not when one of them wants the same rights as straight spouses to belong to clubs and organizations that operate on Ft. Bragg with permission from the command. Yesterday a spokesperson from Ft. Bragg announced:
"[F]ederal discrimination laws don't extend to sexual orientation."Period. End of Sentence. They think this is finished.
I can tell you right now that this is going to explode in their faces and I don't think they have a clue.
If you haven't heard the name Ashley Broadway, you may be wondering what is going on. Back in November, Ashley requested membership to the Ft. Bragg Association of Officer Spouses (ABOS). Her request was denied only after the organization changed it's rules. If you're interested in more background, check out:
The ABOS was supposed to be revisiting their decision over the Winter Break. Here we are, January 16th and Ashley is still waiting for an answer. Well, it's possible that the club may change it's mind, especially if any of the Board Members begin to realize that unless their organization paid for Directors' & Officer's Liability Insurance, they could find themselves paying damages from their personal bank accounts. They may think what they're doing is covered by law but are they willing to risk their own money to defend themselves? One of the advisors for the ABOS is General Allyn's wife, Debbie Allyn. His own personal finances could be at risk if Ashley Broadway chooses to take this to court. She has the full backing of groups like The American Military Partner Association and OutServe and people like us willing to donate to her cause when and if the time comes.
If the club itself is taken to court, then all of it's assets could be directed to pay damages as well. That would mean those hard earned funds meant to go to charitable causes wouldn't be there. It might also mean that future earnings would be dedicated to pay for court costs. Basically, the ABOS wouldn't have enough money to handle this and they would end up going out of business. Honestly, if the group insists on being anachronistic, maybe that is the best solution but in my opinion, it would be a damn shame. Officer Spouses' Clubs and Enlisted Spouses Club and Joint Clubs all have a role to play and they can be an important part of morale building for families under stress. And let's face it, military life is stressful. Any enjoyment we can squeeze out of being with our friends is worth it's weight in gold.
I wonder when General Allyn made his decision to not push the Ft. Bragg ABOS to accept Ashley's membership if he fully considered what might happen to the organization itself. You see, General Allyn might believe that the Ft. Bragg ABOS has the right to discriminate, but General Allyn as commander of the post has the right to deny any organization permission to operate on his post. I would go further and say he has an obligation to deny that permission to any organization that discriminates against military family members for whatever reason. This might be a good time to remind him of his own words yet again,
“The dedication of all the Families to support one another and to look after each other when part of the Family is deployed is to me an integral component that is never spoken about here at Fort Bragg. It’s just how the people here are; they look after each other and are compassionate and committed to taking care of each other and each other’s Families. They are the unsung heroes of Bragg and our Army.”To make things worse, General Allyn currently has the backing of the Department of Defense. This is confusing because the Marine Corps, which recently announced that they would not allow any spouse organization operating on their installations to discriminate against gay or lesbian spouses has the backing of the DoD as well. I would say that Secretary Panetta isn't playing a strong leadership role in these decisions. Perhaps incoming Secretary Chuck Hagel will have better command of the issue. Read what he has to say in his letter to Senator Barbara Boxer,
You asked if I would support the complete repeal of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. I fully support the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and value the service of all those who fight for our country. I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members.I hear a subtle underplay in Secretary Hagel's words about law. Right now, without Congress changing a thing, it is possible for the DoD to issue military ID cards to legally married 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.If the DoD would simply address the issue of same-sex spouse ID cards and provide the leadership necessary to get it done, then folks like Ashley Broadway wouldn't have as heavy a burden. We're creating a group of second class citizens in the US Military and it is wrong. I only wish our leadership would actually stand up and do what's right.
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."