Recently, a military spouse club at Fort Bragg denied membership to Ashley Broadway, the wife of a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, for the sole reason that she is a same-sex spouse. When she wrote her open letter in response, and the American Military Partner Association started a petition, it lit a fire of media attention. Ignoring the organization's own bylaws, the president of the Bragg Association of Officers' Spouses attempted to add the extra requirement of having a military ID card for membership in order to exclude Ashley, who, as a same-sex spouse, is denied a dependent ID card. After a lot of negative exposure for Fort Bragg, the Garrison Commander has agreed to meet with Ashley on Thursday.
However, Ashley's exclusion from the club highlights a bigger issue for the Department of Defense (DoD). Same-sex military spouses are not only being wrongly excluded from some private military spouse clubs but are also being excluded by the DoD itself when it comes to many vital benefits and support services that they need.
With over a year passed since the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), why has the DoD not allowed for same-sex spouses to receive benefits? Despite what you've been told, it's not because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). While DOMA must come to an end for full equality and access to all spousal benefits, the DoD could extend some benefits to same-sex spouses now within the current confines of the law by changing outdated regulations and policies. A DoD working group that studied the issues involved with repealing DADT pointed this out, and the Secretary of Defense has known for over a year exactly what benefits they can legally extend. DOMA cannot legitimately be blamed by itself, and claiming time is needed for the DoD to "study the issue" is no longer a valid excuse. The issues have been studied, and the information has been clearly presented. The time for the extension of these benefits is now.
Americans saw the ugly face of discrimination when the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses took specific steps to exclude Ashley Broadway and other same-sex military spouses. While the club was caught purposely trying to exclude her, the issue is much bigger than just this club. You see, Americans are beginning to see the inconsistencies and outright ridiculous arguments by those who continue to try to deny others' equality simply because of the gender of the person they love. Thanks to exposure, Americans are starting to see the real picture. When organizations like the American Military Partner Association daily display the faces of LGBT military families and the impacts that outdated policies and DOMA have on them, it exposes unknowing citizens to the stark reality of exclusion.
The time for inclusion and change is now. Men and women go off to war fighting for our country in the name of freedom and equality, only to come home to exclusion and inequality for their families. This must end.
While the situation in Fort Bragg is still developing, and we continue to wait to see what the outcome may be, this whole situation could have been avoided if the DoD had made the aforementioned changes soon after the repeal of DADT and issued same-sex spouses military identification cards as "family members." We humbly ask for no more excuses, and no more delays.
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