WASHINGTON — The Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses — which has been in the news for denying membership to the lesbian wife of an Army officer stationed at Fort Bragg — has offered that spouse, Ashley Broadway, a "guest membership" in the group.
In a letter from the Fort Bragg spouses group's president, Mary Ring, to Broadway, Ring wrote that the guest membership was being extended "[w]hile our bylaws are being reviewed."
Although Broadway did not immediately respond to a late-night request for a response to the development, the head of the American Military Partner Association — which supports LGBT servicemembers' partners and of which Broadway is an officer — called the offer "offensive."
In a statement from the Association of Bragg Officers Spouses (ABOS) that was posted on its website Thursday, the board stated, "It always has been and will continue to be our mission to support all military families."
In regard to Broadway's request to join the group, however, the board wrote:
The ABOS Board's biannual review of the by-laws began in July 2012, at which time the by-laws were removed from the ABOS website and continue to be under review. Since the by-laws were written and adopted well before the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell', the term 'Spouse' is not defined.
In December 2012, the group had announced it would review its "membership requirements" in light of Broadway's request. The statement made no mention, however, of any ongoing bylaws review.
Broadway and the group supporting LGBT servicemembers' partners also had said that the Fort Bragg spouses group had attempted to change the membership requirements to exclude Broadway by requiring a military ID card for membership — something currently unavailable by the military to same-sex spouses. The ABOS board, however, stated Thursday that "ABOS' membership application does not explicitly require a valid DoD ID Card" and that "ABOS' by-laws were never changed retroactively in an attempt to exclude anyone."
While the bylaws review continues, though, the ABOS board stated, "In a continued attempt to support all military families, the ABOS Board would like to offer Ms. Broadway a special Guest Membership. Additionally, [Broadway's wife,] LTC [Heather] Mack, as an active duty Officer, is and has always been eligible to become a Member of ABOS and participate in ABOS events."
Stephen Peters, the executive director of the American Military Partner Association, was not satisfied with the move by the Fort Bragg spouses group.
"Ashley is not a 'guest' military spouse. She is a military spouse, plain and simple," Peters said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed. "So the idea that the organization, in order to end the negative attention they are getting because of their outright discrimination, wants to give her a 'guest membership' is not only offensive, but ridiculous. The ABOS openly admits a military ID card is not listed as a requirement, yet they continue to deny her full membership."
The development comes days after an Army spokesman at Fort Bragg in North Carolina said the Fort Bragg spouses group, which meets on the Army installation, was not violating any law if it continued excluding Broadway from membership.
The Guest Membership Offer Letter
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at email@example.com.
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