The Marine Corps has adopted a new policy requiring all spousal clubs operating on its installations to admit same-sex partners or face eviction, although the new policy doesn’t extend to a spouses’ club at North Carolina’s Ft. Bragg that has been the subject of controversy.
According to the Associated Press, the Marine Corps Commandant’s Staff Judge Advocate Major Gen. Vaughn Ary sent an email to legal offices throughout the service noting spousal clubs must adhere to a non-discrimination policy that includes various categories including gender. Ary reportedly said discrimination against same-sex couples would qualify as gender discrimination.
“We would interpret a spouses club’s decision to exclude a same-sex spouse as sexual discrimination because the exclusion was based upon the spouse’s sex,” the memo reportedly states.
Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine Corps spokesperson, told the Washington Blade the service can’t control the actions of independent organizations, but anticipates compliance.
“While the Marine Corps cannot directly control the actions of independent organizations such as spouses’ clubs, we expect that all who are interested in supporting Marine Corps Family Readiness would be welcome to participate and will be treated with dignity and respect,” Flanagan said.
The memo comes on the heels of controversy at the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses in Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina, which denied admission to a same-sex spouse. Ashley Broadway, the wife of Fort Bragg-based Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack, was denied admittance to that club.
The Marine Corps email reportedly refers to the controversy at the Army base and said the event had “caused quite a stir” cautioning, “We do not want a story like this developing in our backyard.”
Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, praised the new Marine Corps policy and urged Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to make a similar policy effective for all services within the U.S. military.
“The Marine Corps guidance issued today is a breakthrough and a clear indication that General Amos meant what he said when he promised Marines would lead the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Robinson said. “Secretary Panetta should use his authority immediately to bring consistency across the services with regard to this issue and in doing so, a greater measure of equity to gay and lesbian service members and their families.”
The Defense Department didn’t respond in time for this posting to a request for comment on whether the Marine Corps policy would be extended across other services.
According to OutServe-SLDN, Broadway was notified in an email that Fort Bragg will issue “Friends of Bragg” passes to same-sex spouses that show a marriage certificate and whose military spouse sponsors them. According to the organization, that pass — which is specific to Fort Bragg — will allow the spouses access to the installation without going through the inspection lane, but won’t however, allow shopping privileges at the post exchange or commissary, nor any other service granted to military dependents. There’s no indication that the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses will grant membership based on this “Friends” pass.
“The ‘consolation prize’ offered by Ft. Bragg’s leaders to Ashley Broadway and others does nothing to remedy the situation at hand — the ongoing discrimination by the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses — nor does it truly advance equity for gay and lesbian service members and their families,” Robinson said. “Ft. Bragg had the opportunity to lead here. Instead, its leaders delayed, equivocated and made excuses. Now that opportunity is lost.”
LGBT advocates have been calling for a secretarial directive to implement certain benefits for troops with same-sex partners — such as joint duty assignments, issuance of military IDs, use of the commissary and family housing — which are offered to troops with opposite-sex spouses. The Pentagon has said it has been examining this issue since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was lifted in 2011, but no action has been taken.