Why would a group whose sole purpose it to help and support military spouses and families want to deny one of their own?
Ashley Broadway has been a military wife for 15 years. Married to an Army lieutenant colonel she has done everything expected of a military spouse, including finding a new job and making new friends with every move, and caring for their young son when the family was separated by deployment. After a transfer to Fort Bragg, and with another child on the way, Broadway decided it was time to get to know other military spouses, people who could relate to the joy and hardships associated with being married to an active service member. The logical choice then was to apply for membership to the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses. Broadway told CNN,
I thought, here’s a chance to make some close friends who would really understand me. And I could get very active in events that help other families like mine. I was excited, really excited, to be a part of this group.
However, the Bragg spouse club had different ideas. You see, Broadway is in a same-sex marriage with Lt. Col. Heather Mack, and Broadway suspects the officers’ spouse club doesn’t want her as a member because she is gay. The club informed Broadway that the new membership rules require a military ID, which she doesn’t have. Although Broadway and Mack were legally married in Washington, D.C., in November, the military does not recognize same-sex marriage. With the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” homosexuals can now serve openly in the military, but under the federal Defense of Marriage Act it is perfectly legal for them to deny many benefits to same-sex spouses. Benefits that are readily available to heterosexual spouses such as insurance, survivor benefits and a military ID card.
Military ID cards are a fundamental aspect of military life without which spouses can’t access child care, buy groceries at the commissary or even get on base. And apparently they are now also necessary for admittance into the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses, which is not a military group but is instead a private club . Broadway said,
The cards are also a big symbol. So there I am listening to this person with this club tell me I can’t join as I’m struggling to get my 2-year-old out of the car and into the house. And I just kept hearing over and over, “You don’t have an ID. You don’t have an ID.” I was hearing it as, “You are not equal. You are less.”Don’t like ads? Become a supporter and enjoy The Good Men Project ad free
At first Broadway was hurt, but after some time she became angry. And why shouldn’t she be? She had put in the same blood, sweat, and tears as any other military spouse. She and Mack had remained a couple through re-locations and deployments. She had experienced the same fear and concern and hardships as any heterosexual military spouse. She was not going to back down without a fight. So she posted an open letter to the President of the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses on the American Military Partner Association webpage, the “go-to support network” for homosexual and transgender military families. AMPA created a petition for Broadway, and other same-sex partners facing discrimination with similar organizations.
Aaron Belkin, founding director for the Palm Center and co-author of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal says,
This is about more than a spouse who wants to get into a club. This is about the Defense of Marriage Act and all the inequalities that come with it. It’s about asking the question: Is the military really going to be serious about giving fair and equal treatment?
Thankfully other military spouses have spoken out in support of Broadway and others like her. Military wife Molly Blake wrote a scathing article for Blue Star Families, which is the largest military family support organization in the US. In her article Blake said,
Ashley Broadway — I don’t care if you are gay. I care that you are a dedicated military spouse who supports your soldier. I care that you want to be an example to other spouses and volunteer your time for the benefit of others … I care that you are willing to set up chairs and tables for fundraisers, bring new and innovative ways to raise money for our neediest military families, collate bid sheets, make brownies and raise your hand when the president needs a volunteer.
The club has been suspiciously silent, refusing to comment and even locking their webpage so that only a member with a password can access the links. The brass at Fort Bragg has little to say as well, other than stating that the club is a private group and so long as they comply with “Department of Defense and Army regulations and with U.S. laws,” there is little the military can do. According to DOD regulations and thanks to DOMA the club has the right to deny Broadway and any other same-sex spouse access to their organization.
The US Supreme court will hear a case on DOMA in March, and one can only hope they will make the right decision. It is the worst kind of discrimination when a faithful and devoted military spouse is denied the help and support available to others simply because they are not the “right kind” of spouse.
As for Angela Broadway, the longer the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses takes to respond the more she begins to wonder if maybe she should, “focus on a group who would value me.”
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