FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- The same-sex spouse of a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg has been denied membership in a base club for officers’ spouses, sparking protests and accusations from a national military spouses organization that the woman was prevented from joining only because she is a lesbian.
Ashley Broadway, who recently married her military spouse, Lt. Col. Heather Mack, said she was told by a representative from the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses that her application was rejected by the group’s president, Mary Ring, because Broadway does not have a military spouse identification card.
But that rule was added only after Broadway asked to join the club several weeks ago, according to Babette Maxwell, Founder and Executive Director of both Military Spouse Magazine and the annual Military Spouse of the Year Awards.
Maxwell and others advocating for Broadway said they have been monitoring and chronologically noting changes in the website for the Bragg spouses club.
Under the original membership requirements -- which Broadway obtained from Fort Bragg's Morale, Welfare and Recreation office, where they were on file -- the bylaws state that the club accepts "spouses of all commissioned and warrant officers" who are on active duty and who reside "in the Fort Bragg area" or live on base. In those bylaws, which also say the group "will not seek to deprive individuals of their civil rights," there is no mention of a requirement that members must posses a military spouse identification card.
“I was really hurt by the denial. Living for years under ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ I couldn't be a part of the military family,” Broadway told NBC News.
“After ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ I thought, wow, I can finally be part of something, finally give back to the military community in ways other than just writing a check. So it was a blow. A real blow. Here, I thought things were progressing. I was knocked back down,” said Broadway, who also volunteers and works with military families and is the director of family affairs for the American Military Partner Association (AMPA).
On Thursday, the spouse's club updated its website with the message that its "constitution and bylaws are currently being reviewed," and released a statement indicating it would address the issue at a board meeting next month.
“‘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," said Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy group for LGBT service members and veterans.
"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,” Robinson said.
Robinson also called out the Pentagon for its nearly two-year long delay in issuing guidance on benefits and support that can be provided to same-sex military families without coming into conflict with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“The Pentagon has dragged its feet on this issue for far too long, and it’s time for the Secretary to act. Situations like the one at Ft. Bragg could be avoided if commanders were given the guidance they need to address these issues with consistency. All it takes is the stroke of a pen,” said Robinson.
On Friday, the AMPA released a statement revealing that Fort Bragg's commander, Col. Jeffrey Sanborn, will meet with Broadway on Dec. 20 to discuss her application.
Mack and Broadway were together 15 years before marrying in November. The couple has a 2-year-old son, and Mack is 8-months-pregnant with their second child.
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