A newlywed Army wife of a female lieutenant colonel has been denied access to an officer spouse's club at Fort Bragg, causing a national military spouses’ organization to accuse the club of discriminating against the woman based solely on her sexuality.
Ashley Broadway married her same-sex partner of 15 years, Lt. Col. Heather Mack, in November. It was their first chance to hold a formal ceremony after the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy that kept gay and lesbians from openly serving in the military.
After Broadway married her wife, she decided to reach out to Bragg’s Spouses club in hopes of becoming part of the community.
However, last week Broadway received a phone call from a representative from the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses, who informed her that she was rejected from the group because Broadway does not have 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 said. “After ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I thought, wow, I can finally be part of something. Here, I thought things were progressing. I was knocked back down.”
The phone call came several weeks after Broadway had asked the club for a copy of its bylaws, so she could be informed of the membership rules. The club refused to send her a copy, so Broadway obtained a copy of the bylaws from Fort Bragg’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation office, according to NBC news.
Within the membership requirements, the bylaws state that “spouses of all commissioned and warrant officers” who are on active duty and who reside “in the Fort Bragg area” are allowed and accepted into the club. The bylaws go on to say that the group “will not seek to deprive individuals of their civil rights” and no such bylaw is in effect that states a member has to have an ID card.
The U.S. military does not recognize same-sex marriages under the Defense of Marriage Act, which entitles the federal government to deny all federal benefits to the spouse of a gay or lesbian soldier, including the right to obtain a military spouse ID card.
Babette Maxwell, founder and executive director of both Military Spouse Magazine and the annual Military Spouse of the Year Awards, believes the rule was only added after Broadway tried to obtain membership to the club. Maxwell and other advocates for Broadway have been continuously monitoring the clubs website and notating several changes within the past weeks.
“Back in the day, I never once recall having to present my military ID at any spouse club event, ever,” Maxwell said. “I find their explanation that Ashley’s membership requires a military ID a bit weak.”
On Friday, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), a support network for partners of LGBT service members, released a statement. They have planned to meet with Broadway on Dec. 20 to discuss her application and address the discrimination she is facing with the club, citing that they were “disappointed to see such exclusion.”
Currently, the married couple is raising a 2-year-old son and Mack is 8-months-pregnant with their second child. Mack is expected to deploy to Afghanistan early next year to serve with her unit.
“My wife puts on the uniform like every other soldier. She’s prepared to give her life for the country that she loves,” Broadway said. “She shouldn’t have to worry if her family is going to be taken care of if, God forbid, something happens to her."