Pentagon Backs Army’s Decision Not to Intervene in Spouses Group’s Decision to Deny Lesbian Membership

In December, Andrew posted about Ashley Broadway, the wife of a ranking officer in the Army, who was excluded from the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses in North Carolina because she is a lesbian.

Dadt"The facts here are simple: there is no legal need or justification for any spouse to be excluded from a group like this, which exists to provide support to the spouses and families of our military men and women and the communities they serve," said Outserve-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson.

Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner reports that the Pentagon is now backing up the decision of Army leaders at Fort Bragg not to intervene in the case:

The reason cited by an Army spokesman at Fort Bragg: "[F]ederal discrimination laws don't extend to sexual orientation." A Pentagon spokesman added late Tuesday that the Department of Defense "neither drafts, executes nor exercises control over the Club or its governing documents. Private organizations who adhere to the criteria outlined in applicable instructions are allowed base access."

The decision marks a distinct departure from the path announced this past week by the Marines, which will require such groups not to discriminate against same-sex spouses if they wish to operate on military property.

Ben Abel, a spokesman at Fort Bragg, however, said the spouses group is "not in violation of the law in the way that they are operating now."


  1. Stefan says

    This situation would seem to point to the importance of the standard of review used in the marriage cases. If homosexuals are treated as a suspect or quasi-suspect class then wouldn’t it suggest that the military when allowing an organization to meet on federal property must have a compelling interest in supporting that group’s discrimination? I’m a little rusty in some parts of constitutional law, so hopefully someone can help clear up the whole idea of what it means when federal land hosts a private organization.

  2. KT says

    Hopefully Tammy Baldwin or Barbara Boxer knows about this story and will grill Chuck Hagel about how he would respond. For all the hand wringing LGBT groups have done over Hagel, they seem to forget Leon Ponetta has been pretty uneffective in expanding LGBT rights since DADT was repealed. Sure, he held pride ceremonies and such but its been over 15 months since DADT died – and we are still waiting for same sex military spouses to be treated equally and for transgendered soldiers to be recognized at all.

  3. johnny says

    I’m with Stefan.

    Seems like if they are operating on federal property, they should have to adhere to policies in place or have their meetings somewhere else. If they want to be discriminatory and bigots in their private club that’s their business, but keep it off of government land.

    Tacitly, it’s the government approving their discrimination and that’s plain wrong.

  4. HM2 Matt says

    I’m not sure of the details but I’m pretty sure the Army is within its rights to let this club operate the way it wants, especially since the complaint is coming from someone who isn’t legally recognized in any way as being a part of the Army family. That said it’s still in poor taste. Just more evidence that the Marines are superior.

  5. Pete N SFO says

    They may not be in violation of Federal Law yet… but certainly they understand the principles before them.

    I wonder what the response is from other club members and spouses.

    Certainly, we couldn’t expect military to just do the right thing.

  6. Steve says

    They are just hiding behind the law, although in reality they have wide latitude on what to do.

    Fort Bragg also discriminates against atheist and secular groups although they provide extensive support for fundamentalist Christians on base.

  7. ac says

    My husband just separated from the US Navy in the fall. He was a submariner and as soon as DADT ended I was SUPER welcomed into the Submarine Officers’ Spousal Association (SOSA which, until last year was necessarily all women). It was an odd mix of annoying over-enthusiasm and kind hospitality.

    I point this out because it would seem that these clubs are, indeed, private, but the same token that allows them to be exclusive at Fort Bragg provides for inclusivity at other duty stations. This mostly reflects poorly on the members of this club at the Fort Bragg and brings up other questions like what will these spouses do when they get transferred to another base, or – I guess what we’re getting at – what is the government doing supporting a club that tailors its support to particular sets of people?

  8. beef and fur says

    This is despicable example of a bunch of self entitled Army officers wives who wont let an outsider come to the weekly potlucks just in case being gay is transferable by breathing on the deviled eggs.

    This reminds me of the old South Junior League ladies with big hair who would gladly let black people prepare food and serve it to them, but would not share the same toilets. Closed minded people like this are cut from the same cloth and probably have the same hairstyles.

    Someday soon, episodes likes this will be in the distant past although I’m sure these big haired bigots will still be holding court and carrying on like the self centered old bats they are.

  9. Icebloo says

    Maybe now people will wake up and see the Pentagon, the FBI and the CIA are out of control and have been for decades. The President and the government have no control over them at all.
    The last President who tried to make them behave was JFK and look what they did to him ! President Carter has publicly admitted he was terrified of them and had no way to control them.

    It’s disgraceful and very, very frightening.

    This is why we have so many wars. The FBI/CIA are in all of the foreign countries setting up wars for us to go into in the next ten years which means we keep spending the majority of our Federal budget on weapons we buy from the Republicans who own the weapons companies.

  10. says

    ALL of these people under the Department of Defense, in uniform and out, from STILL SITTING Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to Secretary of the Army all the way down to local base commander report to….wait for it….drum roll…..President and Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama. So WHY is HE not ordering them to act different within the law when NEARLY SIX YEARS ago, even before he had the Party’s nomination he said:

    “The eradication of [DADT] policy will require more than just eliminating one statute. It will require the implementation of anti-harassment policies and protocols for dealing with abusive or discriminatory behavior as we transition our armed forces away from a policy of discrimination. The military must be our active partners in
    developing those policies and protocols. That work should have started long ago. It will start when I take office.”

    I don’t have to tell anyone he took office four years ago. WHEN are our PAID advocates in Washington such as SLDN going to stop ridculously flapping their jaws about the NEXT Secretary of Defense who hasn’t even been confirmed yet as a distraction from the fact that they’ve done NOTHING to seriously put pressure on the CURRENT SECDEF and President to DO anything?

  11. Karl says

    Those Army instructions that say who gets base access? They are internal regulations most likely signed by a four-star. They can be changed at any time. Sounds like Army Secretary needs to yank a couple chains.

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