The United States Marine Corps today took steps to include same-sex spouses of active-duty service members in its spousal support clubs. The Corps advised its legal staff that spouses clubs operating on its bases and installations must offer membership to the same-sex spouses of gay and lesbian service members, according to ABC News.
But the decision doesn't affect North Carolina's Fort Bragg, which recently came under fire for refusing membership to the lesbian wife of an Army lieutenant colonel in the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses.
For military equality advocates such as Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the change is welcome but doesn't go far enough to dismantle discrimination against same-sex spouses.
"The Marine Corps guidance issued today is a breakthrough and a clear indication that General [James] Amos meant what he said when he promised Marines would lead the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'," said Robinson in a statement.
But Robinson noted that the Marine Corps guidance has no impact on the recent, high-profile exclusion of Ashley Broadway, wife of Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack.
In December, Broadway was told she did not qualify for membership in the spouses club because Broadway lacked a military dependent ID card, which legally married military spouses may obtain. However, the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses' bylaws were evaluated, revealing there was no policy stating that members must have military ID at the time she applied for membership.
Today, Broadway received an email stating that Fort Bragg will consider issuing a "Friends of Bragg" pass to Broadway and other same-sex spouses who can show a marriage certificate, according to OutServe-SLDN. Notably, the "Friends of Bragg" pass does not allow equal access to services as a spousal military ID would offer, and it does not ensure that the spouses club will admit Broadway.
"The 'consolation prize' offered by Fort Bragg's leaders to Ashley Broadway and others does nothing to remedy the situation at hand — the ongoing discrimination by the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses — nor does it truly advance equity for gay and lesbian service members and their families," said Robinson in the statement. "Fort Bragg had the opportunity to lead here. Instead, its leaders delayed, equivocated, and made excuses. Now that opportunity is lost."
OutServe-SLDN notes that because spouses clubs are private, nonprofit organizations, there is no legal basis — such as the Defense of Marriage Act — to deny membership to same-sex military spouses.