Though gay people can now serve openly, the military doesn't formally recognize same-sex marriage under the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law passed in 1996 that denies many benefits to same-sex spouses. One of those benefits is military IDs.
The cards are an essential part of military life, allowing holders to get on base, access child care or go to the commissary. And in the case of Ashley Broadway, join the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
According to Broadway, her membership to the Bragg spouse club was denied because she is married to Lt. Col. Heather Mack.
Broadway and Mack have been together for 15 years, have a 2-year-old son together and Mack is expected to deliver their second child this month. They married in November — their first chance to hold a formal ceremony after the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
“This is no longer about me joining this officers club. This is about the Pentagon and the Department of Defense and the Department of Army telling the country that it is OK to discriminate against gay and lesbian service members and their families,” Broadway told NBC News.
AMPA’s website suggests the club might be considering new membership rules that a military ID card is not necessary to join, adding that no one should be blocked from membership because of sexual orientation.
Seems the nation's military bases are struggling to adapt culturally to the legal changes brought on by 2011's repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Brass at Fort Bragg told NBC News that they had no control over the spouse club because it's not a military group, but a private one.
The Pentagon's position on the Fort Bragg matter is legally viable despite the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” because the Department of Defense still follows DOMA. That law defined marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. Under DOMA, the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages and doesn’t offer same-sex military spouses some benefits given to heterosexual spouses.
The Pentagon is endorsing Fort Bragg’s decision to stay out of this conflict based on a department-wide “instruction” drafted in 2008, three years before the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
That directive ensures that “non-federal entities” operating on U.S. military installations don’t discriminate on the basis of “race, color, creed, sex, age, disability, or national origin.” There is no mention of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“The Officer Spouses' Club at Ft. Bragg is in compliance with the DOD instruction,” said Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the Pentagon. “When you look at the instruction there are a few things it has to meet. As long as they meet those criteria, they’re allowed to meet on the base.”
The Army’s handling of that matter runs counter to a directive issued Jan. 9 by Marine Corps leaders who ordered that same-sex spouses be allowed to participate in spouses’ clubs at all Marine bases.