WASHINGTON — The Association of Brag Officers Spouses at Fort Bragg in North Carolina has added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy and offered Ashley Broadway, married to Lt. Col. Heather Mack, a full membership in the organization.
The group previously had offered Broadway a “guest membership” while it was reviewing its bylaws. In December, her request for membership had been denied, but then the group said it would review its membership policies.
Broadway celebrated the news Friday night, saying in a statement, “I am overjoyed to see ABOS’s inclusion of ‘sexual orientation’ in their non-discrimination clause. I have further reason to take pride in the Ft. Bragg military community, knowing that we, as military spouses, are able to come together to support each other, our soldiers, and our families.”
The American Military Partner Association, of which Broadway is an officer, had been supportive of her efforts to join the club.
“This is an example of the direction in which our military continues to progress. However, without immediate action from the Pentagon and the White House, same-sex military spouses are still not only at risk of exclusion from private spouse clubs, but are still excluded from other types of crucial family support and vitally needed military benefits and support services,” Stephen Peters, president of the partners association, said.
As Peters noted, the Fort Bragg issues raised questions about the ongoing treatment by the military of servicemembers with same-sex partners. The Army and Pentagon had concluded that, under a policy issued before the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Army could continue to allow the officers spouses group to meet on the installation even if it continued to deny Broadway membership.
Although the Fort Bragg issue is resolved with Friday’s decision, the White House and Pentagon are likely going to continue to face pressure from LGBT advocates to provide servicemembers with benefits that can be provided to them. The Defense of Marriage Act limits the provision of spousal benefits, but OutServe-SLDN and the Pentagon itself have identified several benefits that could be provided to servicemembers even while DOMA remains the law.
On Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney noted in response to a question about the issue, “The president is absolutely focused on and aware of the need to further implement DADT [repeal], and to ensure that proper benefits are provided.”
The issue is likely to get further attention at confirmation hearings for former Sen. Chuck Hagel, who was nominated by Obama to be the next defense secretary and has faced skepticism and some outright opposition from LGBT groups for his past views and statements on LGBT issues.