Ashley Broadway is a military wife. She has two children with her partner of 15 years, but she is being denied access to a support group reserved for other military families. What makes her different from her counterparts? Broadway says it’s because she’s a lesbian.
Broadway applied to join the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses in North Carolina, but was turned away because she did not possess a military ID card. Currently, same-sex partners are not allowed to obtain them – even after the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
In an open letter posted on the American Military Partner Association website Monday, Broadway writes:
“I respectfully ask that you reconsider my request to join the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses. Although I have only been a legal spouse since November 10th, I have been in a committed relationship with my spouse since 1997. I have been at every promotion ceremony from First Lieutenant through Lieutenant Colonel. I watched with pride when she took her guideon and began company command, and I was the shoulder she cried on when she had to give it up. I have endured deployments and several TDYs, and I’ll continue to comfort our son and newborn daughter as they watch her leave on the next. When I decided to dedicate myself to my spouse, I knew all too well I was dedicating myself to the Army as well.
“I am aware that I am not the only same-sex spouse denied membership in a military spouse association. It is happening in other service branches as well. The American Military Partner Association comes together to support spouses in this situation. Most recently, Tanisha Ward, the wife of a deployed Airman, was denied membership to the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse’s Club. She and her wife had just PCS’d to Little Rock when her wife, A1C Hensley, deployed. Far away from her family and friends, Tanisha looked to other spouses for support. However, Tanisha was denied as a same-sex spouse. Ft. Bragg should not be another example of this discrimination.”
According to BuzzFeed:
Broadway told BuzzFeed that the different treatment made no sense to her and said it especially stung given how long she had to keep her relationship a secret under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
"I think when I heard those words — I feel like I've been discriminated against for the 15 years that I've been with Heather because I met her, and she was in the Army," she said. "I had to lie for so long, almost live two different lives. I could never really tell people, I couldn't get married."
She hoped that her November wedding, coupled with the military's policy change allowing out gay service, would put an end to the couple's hardships.
"I've been discriminated against because of the military, because of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' but I just really had in my heart, had in my mind, that people were moving on from it," she said, adding, "I was so proud to finally say, 'We're married.'"
Although organizations like OutServe-SLDN have repeatedly asked the Pentagon to expand benefits to include ID cards for same-sex spouses of service members, the government has taken no action on the issue since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" nearly 15 months ago.
Though gay people can now serve openly, the military doesn't formally recognize same-sex marriage under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law passed in 1996 that denies many benefits to same-sex spouses. One of those benefits is military IDs.
The cards are an essential part of military life, allowing holders to get on base, access child care or go to the commissary.
"The cards are also a big symbol," Broadway recalled. "So there I am listening to this person with this club tell me I can't join as I'm struggling to get my 2-year-old out of the car and into the house. And I just kept hearing over and over, 'You don't have an ID. You don't have an ID.' I was hearing it as, 'You are not equal. You are less.'"
Her voice breaks. "I kept thinking that if these people just met me, they would like me," she said, crying.
A petition has been created by the American Military Partner Association to reverse the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses rejection.