The Marine Corps has taken a bold step towards inclusion by advising that any military spouse club operating on a Marine installation must admit same-sex spouses if it wishes to continue operating. A legal memo circulated this week advises that refusing to admit a same-sex spouse constitutes discrimination based on sex, even though the nondiscrimination statement does not include sexual orientation. The Marine Corps is so far the first and only branch of the military to take this step.
The decision stems from a controversy at the Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where a spouses’ club refused to admit Ashley Broadway, the wife of an officer serving there. In fact, the club arbitrarily changed its rules just to exclude her. Multiple attempts to address the situation with the fort’s leadership have proven to be nothing but delay tactics. According to OutServe-SLDN, Fort Bragg is now offering a “consolation prize” that does nothing to remedy the situation:
Today, Broadway was notified in an email that Fort Bragg will allow the issuance of “Friends of Bragg” passes to same sex spouses who can show a marriage certificate from one of the states performing same sex marriages and whose military spouse sponsors them. This will allow the spouses access to Fort Bragg without going through the inspection lane. It will not, however, allow shopping privileges at the post exchange or commissary nor any other service granted to military dependents. The passes are Fort Bragg specific and will not be honored at other installations of government facilities. There is no indication that the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses will grant membership based on this “Friends” pass.
Because sposues’ clubs are independently managed, they do not fall under the purview of the federal government’s adherence to the Defense of Marriage Act; thus, there is no requirement that they discriminate against same-sex couples. The Marines’ step of setting clear expectations for how the clubs can function is commendable, but it’s unclear if other branches — or the Department of Defense itself — have any intention of following suit.