Pentagon and House at Odds over Tammy Baldwin Spouse Travel

The definition of the word “spouse” appears to be at the center of a tangle between House speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Pentagon over allowing Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s partner Lauren Azar to travel with her in official situations similar to other congressional spouses.

Azar_baldwinPolitico reports: “Under House guidelines, members of Congress may take their spouses with them on military flights if there is room for them and when it is ‘necessary for protocol purposes.’ Although Baldwin, the only openly gay woman elected to Congress, exchanged wedding vows with Lauren Azar in 1998, her home state of Wisconsin does not officially recognize same-sex marriages, and military officials were apparently unwilling to consider Azar a ‘spouse’ within the meaning of the House guidelines. In appealing to [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, Pelosi aides said their boss was simply asking the defense secretary to follow a precedent established by her predecessor, former Republican Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois. Pelosi told Gates that Hastert had allowed Baldwin to take Azar on a previous trip abroad. Gates, who was apparently unaware of any earlier trips, told the speaker that she was responsible for the House travel rules and had the authority to make an exception, according to officials on and off the Hill. His only requirement was that Pelosi send him a letter authorizing the trip. Pelosi sent such a letter moments after the phone call ended, and Azar was allowed on the plane.”

While some suggest that the military is uneasy about the use of its planes in a situation that would be legitimizing a same-sex relationship while it still treats its employees according to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, Rep. Barney Frank believes it has more to do with the Bush administration’s policy in other areas.

Says Frank: “I think the military was following orders. I think the administration disapproves of same-sex marriage.”

Pentagon balked on gay partner travel [politico]


  1. yoshi says

    Its congress that dictates military policy not the president. Pelosi’s and the Pentagon’s move was the right one in a situation with conflicting rules are in force.

    The next move is to remove DADT. But that requires more than just writing a letter which means Pelosi’s completely incapable of achieving that.

  2. queendru says

    Congress set the rules. Pelosi was informed it was up to her, just like it was up to her Republican predecessor, she sent the letter of exception and the matter was resolved this time.

    If she wants a permanent change, all Speaker Pelosi or Barney Frank has to do is introduce a bill. They won’t and will continue to use things like this as wedge issue again the military or the loyal opposition.

    Come on, she’s Speaker of the House. There is perhaps no more power position (including vice president) outside the Oval Office. If she cared she could get it done. But it’s an election year so she’ll pander to the base, pat gays on the head, cash their donor checks, and stuff them into the closet.

  3. Richard says

    I don’t get it with Pelosi. I live in the Bay area and people here fawn all over her as the goddess of the Democratic party. She was re-elected with a huge majority (80% or more). I’ve not been impressed with her or with Boxer — they pale in comparison to the Feinstein, who brings tremendous class and maturity to her leadership role (and who was a terrific mayor of San Francisco).

    When it comes to substantive issues, taking a stand, making a declaration and changing policy Pelosi has been lame. This was a great opportunity for her to take a positive stand about gay partners and their rights. That she comes from the Bay area and took such a passively supportive stance is pathetic.

  4. anon says

    This has nothing to do with DADT, since neither persons were in the service. However, it might fall under DOMA, as the federal govt. is banned from recognizing gay marriage. That said, they were never technically married to begin with. So, this was a congressional policy all along.

  5. kevwyn says

    how many unmarried or married government officials have allowed non spouses of a different gender to accomany them before thats what i would be interested in knowing. noone seems to have answered that maybe its a nonissue

Leave A Reply