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January 10, 2013 6:54 AM   Subscribe

Following an incident at Fort Bragg where Lt. Colonel Heather Mack's wife, Ashley Broadway, was told she could not join the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses, the Marine Corps has issued guidance that spouses clubs operating on its bases and installations must offer membership to the same-sex spouses of gay and lesbian service members.

While the Defense Department has not issued similar guidance covering all service branches, and for now is taking the stance that the Fort Bragg spouses club is conforming with the existing rules because the non-discrimination clause does not extend to sexual orientation, the Marine Corps memo makes it clear that they are judging this issue as one of sex discrimination.
"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," the memo said.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (23 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Every so often I have a moment where I just can't believe how much things have changed in my lifetime. I'm not even 40.
posted by desjardins at 7:11 AM on January 10, 2013 [40 favorites]


A Marine Corps spokesman, Capt. Eric Flanagan, said the Marines cannot directly control the actions of independent organizations such as spouses' clubs, but added, "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."

That's leading by example and what America should expect from its Marine Corps. That's their f***ing job and they don't really actually deserve any special kudos for this in particular. Just the regular props that come along with a job well done.

I never believed the argument that this would be disruptive to military order (and I never understood why Obama sat on his hands with this bogus argument) because the proof so far has been absolutely contrary to those predictions. Which is no surprise. And should be no surprise. These people are dedicated, committed professionals who also happen to obey a clear chain of command. The Marines - once again - show all the other branches how it is done. Good on them.
posted by three blind mice at 7:12 AM on January 10, 2013 [22 favorites]


Good for them. Even though it looks from the outside like they're doing it to head off a negative PR nightmare, it's the right thing to do and they should be commended for it.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:12 AM on January 10, 2013


A clarification is in order, it seems, about the Fort Bragg club in particular (after reading the "must offer membership") link - it seems that at Fort Bragg they are getting away with a technicality by offering "a 'Friends of Bragg' pass to [...] same-sex spouses who can show a marriage certificate [...] the 'Friends of Bragg' pass does not allow equal access to services as a spousal military ID would offer".

So it's a technical compliance, but a half-assed one - they're admitting them as members, but only lower-class ones.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Haven't we already been down the separate but equal path and decided it was a bad plan? A lower-class membership is something of a win, but a backhanded compliment and a dose of bitters seems to come along with it. I wish I could be happier about this than I am.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:19 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quick note: Fort Bragg is an Army installation.

"Notably, the "Friends of Bragg" pass does not allow equal access to services as a spousal military ID would offer," like: PX, commissary, hospital access, gym, etc.

Many bases operate a "Friends of ____" pass program. It's an entry and parking pass.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:22 AM on January 10, 2013


Even though it looks from the outside like they're doing it to head off a negative PR nightmare, it's the right thing to do and they should be commended for it.

Thank you for implementing both the letter and the spirit of the President's orders? Sorry. If it worked like that then military order would have been a valid concern. The military has to embrace policy even if they don't take it to heart and from where I'm standing the policy of the Commander in Chief is pretty clear.

So it's a technical compliance, but a half-assed one - they're admitting them as members, but only lower-class ones.

Not "only" lower-class, EQUALLY lower-class (as compared to a Military ID). The other half of that ass is another ball of wax completely.
posted by three blind mice at 7:35 AM on January 10, 2013


"Notably, the "Friends of Bragg" pass does not allow equal access to services as a spousal military ID would offer," like: PX, commissary, hospital access, gym, etc.

Thanks DOMA! (Not that I don't with the Defense Department would take a stand, but they are only following the rule of law signed by a previous Democratic Commander-in-Chief.)

What I found most joy-making about this whole story, back when it originally broke, was the crazy amount of support the same-sex spouses were receiving from opposite-sex spouses (at the national level at least) on (not-LGBT specific) military family Facebook groups. This wasn't universal, but it was by far the loudest voice. It was noted earlier this week here after the passing of Jeanne Manford that change for gay civil rights did not, would not, and will not continue to happen without allied support from supportive straight people, but seeing it in action in this way was quite striking.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:41 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fort Bragg's response isn't "compliance" in any way -- they're Army, not Marines. The "Friends of Bragg" pass is (partially, at least) a response to DOMA -- the federal government has told the services under no uncertain terms that same-sex spouses cannot be treated like opposite-sex spouses in official ways, including spouse IDs. So the Bragg club used that to say, "Well, if you don't have an ID, you're not a spouse. QED."

The problem is that spouse clubs are A) technically unofficial (think of them as Boy Scout troops -- they use post facilities, but they're not "run" by the military), and B) full of the bluest noses you will ever find. Some of them won't -- to this day -- formally admit husbands. They are often ruled over by the commander's wife, who wears her husband's rank as if if were her own. I guarantee you that they will be the last place that same-sex spouses are welcome in the military; two Green Berets will be married to each other before the last time some spouse club takes extreme measures to exclude a same-sex spouse.

I never believed the argument that this would be disruptive to military order (and I never understood why Obama sat on his hands with this bogus argument) because the proof so far has been absolutely contrary to those predictions.

The military of 2009 was very, very different from the military of just a few years before. One side effect of years of constant deployments is that people stop caring about bullshit like sexual orientation. If Bush had tried to repeal DADT in his first term, there would have been problems. And the military of 2009 was light-years beyond the military of 1993 (when DADT was seen as a "compromise" position). And even in the much better atmosphere, things aren't perfect.
posted by Etrigan at 7:43 AM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Way to go, Marines!

two Green Berets will be married to each other before the last time some spouse club takes extreme measures to exclude a same-sex spouse.

A double Green Beret marriage may have happened already. The repeal of DADT has meant that many established couples have been able to come out of hiding.
posted by jb at 7:45 AM on January 10, 2013


I was coming in to clarify the difference, but on preview, it's been done excellently for me.

However, the talk about DOMA makes me wonder: when is the last time DOMA has been legally challenged? And what would be the response if, say, the husband of some highly decorated combat veteran sued for the federal benefits he should be entitled to?
posted by corb at 7:45 AM on January 10, 2013


corb: when is the last time DOMA has been legally challenged?

The Supremes will hear it in March.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:48 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


And what would be the response if, say, the husband of some highly decorated combat veteran sued for the federal benefits he should be entitled to?

It would go into the same pile of "waiting to be heard" cases pending the resolution of the Windsor case, I assume.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:49 AM on January 10, 2013


The US military is okay at recognizing the writing on the wall, and issuing regulations. When they desegregated, it created a major avenue of opportunity for African-Americans, who could join the service, put in 20 years, retire with a pension and get a good civilian job on the strength of their military record. It gave African-Americans leadership experience, and it gave everybody the experience or working and living with each other. It wasn't easy or trivial, but it made a huge difference in the culture, and played a significant part in creating an African-American middle class. Women in the military are now getting that leadership experience, and everybody's dealing with the reality of women as leaders; it will change the culture. Dropping the prohibition on gays in the military, and enforcing even surface acceptance is likely to affect the culture as people work with gays and lose that sense of "other." TL;DR - this is good.
posted by theora55 at 8:03 AM on January 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


Way back when I was young, I remember how my mother was permanently ticked off by how unfair what are now "spouse's clubs" used to operate. There used to be two separate clubs: one for the 'officers' ladies', and a second club for the 'enlisted wives' --- yes, officer's spouses were ladies, but the enlisted spouses most definately were not.

Anyhow, as the senior noncom's wife (Dad was a submarine Chief of the Boat, the most senior of the +/-100 enlisted guys on a sub) my mother was expected, by the Navy, to handle a lot of official communications (when they'd be returning from a cruise, if there'd been an accident, whatever) to all of the families of those +/-100 enlisted men, while the Navy contacted each of the 10-12 officer's "ladies" directly. I remember being struck by the injustice of it, and how they treated the enlisted wives as second-class citizens --- your race didn't matter, it was your husband's rank.

Dad was retired before they changed to the single "spouses' club", but I remember Mom laughing her head off when she heard. I like to think she's giving the Marines a big "hell yeah: about time!" for this.
posted by easily confused at 8:08 AM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


So it's a technical compliance, but a half-assed one - they're admitting them as members, but only lower-class ones.

Not to defend the Bragg wives' club or whatever, but the country treats them as lower-class. There is nothing that can offer the benefits of a spousal ID other than a spousal ID, which same-sex spouses can't get because DOMA. (Though obviously spouse clubs could choose to not be assholes about all this, which they obviously didn't do there.)

And what would be the response if, say, the husband of some highly decorated combat veteran sued for the federal benefits he should be entitled to?

There's a same-sex couple suing the federal government over veterans' benefits.

There's also this couple - two National Guardsmen, one KIA in Afghanistan in October and the other denied death benefits. "Dice and Johnson are the first known same-sex married military couple to have suffered a casualty since the repeal of DADT, according to the Military Times." The widow doesn't seem to have filed suit, but she's getting some attention to this issue.
posted by lullaby at 8:42 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem is that spouse clubs are A) technically unofficial (think of them as Boy Scout troops -- they use post facilities, but they're not "run" by the military), and B) full of the bluest noses you will ever find. Some of them won't -- to this day -- formally admit husbands. They are often ruled over by the commander's wife, who wears her husband's rank as if if were her own.

Yeah, but my limited understanding is that this flows in both directions, and the commander's wife's conduct reflects on the commander and can affect his chances for desirable assignments or further promotion. So the Pentagon-level staff can make it clear that spouses' clubs run in ways that don't maximize readiness will be unhelpful, though I don't have a tremendous amount of faith that the Army will do that anytime soon.

I expect the other statement from the Corps -- "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" -- might be more important than the order per se, since it goes beyond the spouses' clubs into other aspects of military family/social life.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:52 AM on January 10, 2013


(Though obviously spouse clubs could choose to not be assholes about all this, which they obviously didn't do there.)

Oh, it was worse than choosing not to be assholes. They actively became assholes, telling Broadway that she wasn't really a spouse because she didn't have a spouse ID and then changing their charter to reflect this "policy." Before she showed up, there was no such requirement.
posted by Etrigan at 8:53 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem is that spouse clubs are A) technically unofficial (think of them as Boy Scout troops -- they use post facilities, but they're not "run" by the military), and B) full of the bluest noses you will ever find. Some of them won't -- to this day -- formally admit husbands. They are often ruled over by the commander's wife, who wears her husband's rank as if if were her own.

Yeah, but my limited understanding is that this flows in both directions, and the commander's wife's conduct reflects on the commander and can affect his chances for desirable assignments or further promotion. So the Pentagon-level staff can make it clear that spouses' clubs run in ways that don't maximize readiness will be unhelpful, though I don't have a tremendous amount of faith that the Army will do that anytime soon.


Officially speaking, a service member's spouse's conduct reflects on that service member only when it leads to actual issues. So you can't give a bad evaluation to someone just because he fights with his wife a lot, unless it's distracting him from his work in a tangible way. The CO's wife just being a bitch shouldn't lead to a bad evaluation, unless she's such a bitch that, say, it makes the national news.

This is all a very cyclical thing. In the '70s, wives literally wore their husband's rank, and my mother was a pariah because she had a job and didn't feel like participating; in the '90s, spouse clubs were nearly dead because so many spouses had jobs and didn't feel like participating; in the '00s and '10s, service members spend so much time away from home that the spouse clubs become much more than social groups, and can be valuable parts of the overall military family experience. Unfortunately, when they have that level of influence, people will seek to own that influence, and easy for Mrs. Colonel to wield her husband's rank.
posted by Etrigan at 9:01 AM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every so often I have a moment where I just can't believe how much things have changed in my lifetime. I'm not even 40.

I'm 25, and I feel this way. Looking back at high school - before I was out, but I had gay friends - and comparing the world to the world I see today ... shakes head
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:02 PM on January 10, 2013


It's changing for the better.

Earlier today, I saw something on facebook about how difficult it would be to explain to someone from the 1950s that you can put a computer in your pocket. But my response was, no, they would understand that. What they really wouldn't understand is how much progress we've made for equal rights, whether for visible minorities, women or GLBT people. We're not all the way, but we have come so very, very far.

I like old things: old artifacts, old documents, I read a lot of history and historical fiction. But I have no desire to go back in time at all (other than for field research, of course). As difficult as the world is and how hard the challenges we face (the economy, the environment) and though there are things the past can teach us, it's still better than what we had before.
posted by jb at 1:40 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


corb: when is the last time DOMA has been legally challenged?

Rock Steady: The Supremes will hear it in March.


Fair enough; you can't hurry love.
posted by threeants at 7:57 PM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


corb: when is the last time DOMA has been legally challenged? Rock Steady: The Supremes will hear it in March.

The Supreme Court, Prop 8, and DOMA: The Standing Question.
posted by ericb at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2013


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