Lesbian Army wife denied membership to spouses’ club wins Spouse of the Year award

It's been a crazy few months for Ashley Broadway, the Director of Family Affairs for the American Military Partner Association, who's been very publicly dealing with a discrimination case involving the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses. Two months ago, when Ashley applied for membership to the spouses' club near where she lives in North Carolina, she was rejected, informed that she would not be allowed to participate. In November, Ashley legally married her partner of 15 years, Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack, in Washington, D.C., and she had hoped to join the spouses' club and draw support from the other spouses involved in the organization. As a married woman, she saw no reason why she wouldn't be able to be involved - but the organization explained that because Ashley does not have a military ID, she would not be permitted full membership.

Ashley doesn't have a military ID partly because of outdated policies from the Department of Defense that have not been corrected since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2011. The Pentagon, as OutServe-SLDN has been pointing out consistently since August 2011, has the ability to extend certain protections to same-sex couples - including the issuance of Military ID cards, which are required for on-base activities. The Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses pointed to Ashley's lack of military ID card as a reason for her denial from the organization.

The rejection sparked significant national controversy, and on January 9, 2013 directly led to a memo from the U.S. Marine Corps alerting all spouses' clubs in the Marines that same-sex spouses should be allowed as full members of these organizations. The Pentagon refused to comment on Ashley's rejection at Fort Bragg. Last week, Ashley was offered "guest membership" in the association, an offer Ashley rejected because it was not full membership. 

Today, amid all of the controversy about her membership in the organization, Ashley was named Fort Bragg's 2013 "Spouse of the Year" after a week of online voting. She'll now move on for consideration of the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Award, which represents all branches in the Army. 

Army Veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson heralded the news of Ashley's win today in a statement. She said:

Today's announcement that Ashley Broadway will represent the military spouses at Ft Bragg and be among those eligible to be named national military spouse of the year only underscores how out of touch many of our military leaders are with the communities and the nation they serve. It is past time for the Pentagon to catch up and honor the service and sacrifice of all military families. If Ashley's peers can bestow this honor on her, how can the Pentagon continue to pretend her family and others like them don't even exist, and continue to delay taking actions currently in its authority to treat them the same as all other military families?  

The Pentagon can certainly take steps to protect Ashley, Heather, and their family - for example, by extending military ID benefits and making same-sex married couples eligible for joint duty assignments, family center programs, and military family housing. But the couple and their children will not be fully protected and respected until the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is repealed. The anti-gay DOMA forces the U.S. military - and all federal employees - to disrespect lawful marriages between same-sex couples and deprives these loving and committed couples from over 1,100 essential protections that different-sex couples receive. These include access to shared health care, surviving spouse benefits, and morale and welfare programs. 

Since May, Freedom to Marry has partnered with OutServe-SLDN for our Freedom to Serve, Freedom to Marry campaign, which shines a light on the ways that the Defense of Marriage Act hurts gay and lesbian service members and their families. You can read more about the campaign HERE. 

As Ashley and Heather celebrate Ashley's "Spouse of the Year" win and continue speaking out about the dangers of discrimination and the ways that DOMA hurts their family, they're also celebrating the birth of their second child, a baby girl who joined her brother Carson on Tuesday as the newest member of Ashley and Heather's family. You can read more about Ashley, Heather, Carson, and their family HERE.