The Marine Corps legal office has instructed military spouses clubs to admit same-sex spouses if they want to continue operating on Marine bases.
The order comes as the military grapples with how to accommodate the rights of same-sex couples after the repeal of the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy that prohibited gay and lesbians from serving openly. The Marine Corps is the first military branch to explicitly order military spouses groups to admit same-sex spouses.
In a memo emailed to Marine Corps legal offices around the country, the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant said spouses clubs on Marine installations must adhere to a nondiscrimination policy regarding sexual orientation.
"While the Marine Corps cannot directly control the actions of independent organizations such as spouses clubs, we expect that all who are interested in supporting Marine Corps Family Readiness would be welcome to participate and will be treated with dignity and respect," said Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine Corps spokesman.
Flanagan said the legal memo, citing a Marine Corps order, emphasized that any group operating on a base must explicitly state that "no person shall be discriminated against because of race, color, creed, sex, age, disability, or national origin, or otherwise subjected to unlawful discrimination.’’
The memo added: "We would interpret a spouses club’s decision to exclude a same-sex spouse as sexual discrimination because the exclusion was based upon the spouse’s sex.’’
Stephen L. Peters II, president of the American Military Partner Assn., which advocates for same-sex spouses in the military, said he was pleased with the Marine Corps decision.
"Now that the Marine Corps has set the right standard, we need the secretary of Defense to ensure there is consistency across all branches of service in regards to private organizations that operate on military bases," Peters said.
An officers wives club at Ft. Bragg, N.C., has refused to admit Ashley Broadway, the wife of Lt. Col. Heather Mack. Broadway said in an interview Wednesday that she was first told that she was turned down for membership because she does not have a military ID. The Army does not issue military IDs to same-sex spouses.
Broadway said she believes she was rejected because of her sexual orientation. "They don’t recognize me as a military spouse," she said.
The Fort Bragg Area Officers’ Spouses’ Club has said it will review its policies at its next meeting.
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