Secretary Panetta, We Need Your Help Before You Leave

23 January 2013

The Honorable Leon Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Mr. Secretary,

We at the American Military Partner Association are pleased to see that you have taken action to lift the ban on women in combat military occupational specialties. By taking such action, you have shown that no barriers should be in place based upon a service member’s gender, as long as they are willing and capable of serving our great nation. However, this leadership decision only highlights a problem our military families are facing.

Because of out-dated Defense Department regulations, our gay and lesbian military families are facing severe hardships in serving our nation.  As related to your recent decision, the same-sex spouses and domestic partners of the female service members who will soon be able to serve in any role of the military are still denied access to the same benefits and support services as other military spouses.

Additionally, private organizations that operate on military installations, as most notably displayed with my personal denial of full membership to the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses at Fort Bragg, NC, are still being permitted to discriminate against same-sex spouses, using a lack of a military identification card to do so.

While we understand that the Defense of Marriage Act currently prohibits some benefits from being extended, as was pointed out to you back in August of 2011 by our friends at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, there are numerous benefits and support services that can be extended to same-sex military spouses right now, most notably a military identification card.

Within the confines of current law, we humbly ask for the sake of our military families that you use your authority to direct the extension of benefits immediately to same-sex military spouses.  We also ask that you ensure no private organization operating on a military installation is able to exclude a military spouse simply because of their gender.  Every military family should be properly equipped and supported as they serve our country.

Very Respectfully,

Ashley Broadway
Director of Family Affairs
The American Military Partner Association

Denied Membership: An Open Letter to the President of the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses

Madam President,

Earlier this month, I was delighted to find that there is an Officers’ Spouse Club (OSC) on the Ft. Bragg base. My wife and I have been together for fifteen years as partners, and with the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” are finally legally married.

I emailed a listed contact for the group and eagerly waited to hear back. When I did, I was incredibly disappointed to be told I “do not qualify.”

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.

My record of service to the military community would be an outstanding addition to your group. I began volunteering to assist military families. As an educator, I would often tutor “Army Brats” in reading. I briefed inbound families on the different school districts, assisting in housing location decisions. I have worked with local Humane Societies to help deployed Soldiers find temporary homes for their pets while they deploy, and most recently, I volunteer as a family coordinator for the American Military Partner Association, assisting other military members with same-sex partners and their families work through the existing inequalities we face.

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.

You see, our lives are more similar than they are different. I am dedicated to my spouse and the country we love. I was excited to stumble upon your Facebook page, and to see an organization whose vales and enthusiasm were so in line with my own. I read through your mission and the description of your club and found a club where I could continue to make a difference. I was overjoyed when I read that the club is made up of military spouses dedicated to the tradition of the Army, while moving towards its vision of tomorrow. My families, and families like mine, are included in the vision of tomorrow’s Army. Please keep in mind that DADT was repealed over a year ago. Our Commander-in-Chief supports us; I was the first same-sex military spouse invited by the First Lady to attend her Mother’s Day Tea. We are a part of the face of this country’s future, and the White House, Pentagon, and many other posts are leaning forward to embrace this progression.

The American Military Partner Association has created a petition to ask you to end this kind of exclusion. I hope that you reconsider my membership in the Ft. Bragg OSC, as Ft. Bragg is known amongst military communities for setting the standard, leading by example, and being at the forefront of change.

Very Respectfully,

Ashley Broadway

Do you support Ashley?  Sign our petition today!

 

UPDATED: Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses Attempts to Solidify Discrimination

 

Tea with the First Lady

Happy Mother’s Day… well, almost.

On May 13th, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day, recognizing all the wonderful mothers across our country.  Whether it is by taking our moms to their favorite restaurant, calling them on the phone, or remembering those who have passed, this will be a special holiday for many.  As a mother, I look forward to this day each year since our son was born. However, at the same time I am aware that this special holiday for me is somewhat tarnished; tarnished with the realization of inequality.

My partner of 14 years is an active duty military member. We lived many years under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and now that the ban has been lifted, we can finally live as a family…or can we? Thanks in part to the misleadingly named Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the military does not acknowledge me as a spouse, nor do they acknowledge me as our child’s mother. The only recognition I receive is the status of “caregiver.”  When I drive on base, I have special identification that says “caregiver.”  When I take our son to MWR events, I have to sign in as “caregiver.”  This one word, whether spoken or written, pierces my heart when I have to use it to describe my relationship to our son.  All I want is to be recognized for what I am…his mother. After all, I’ve been here the whole time.  I was there when he was conceived, through the pregnancy and delivery, through good times and bad.  I load the mini-van and take him to gymnastics, swim lessons, and play dates.  I am the one who will hold him when he cries as his mommy deploys again.  But most importantly, I love him unconditionally…not as a caregiver, but as his momma.

Finally some recognition…

Today, I attended a Mother’s Day Tea at the White House hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama.  To my knowledge, this is the first time same-sex partners and spouses of military personnel have been invited to this annual event openly.  I must say, this was the first time in 14 years I truly felt like I was a part of the military community.  Not once did I have to shy away, lie, or avoid the fact I am a partner of a United States Soldier.  I will always have special memories from today, but the best part of the event was meeting Mrs. Obama.  I looked in the First Lady’s eyes, while shaking her hand, and thanked her for inviting me, but most importantly thanking President Obama for ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his support for the LGBT community…that “we,” the partners of gay and lesbian servicemembers, truly appreciate what he has done for our families.

 Words can’t describe how honored and humbled I am to have attended such a prestigious event. While representing the American Military Partner Association, the thousands of others who are part of the LGBT military community were constantly on my mind throughout the event. While sitting there among other military spouses, I couldn’t help but think of other partners and spouses of LGBT servicemembers wishing they too could be a part of this event.  I thought about my friend Anacelly whose Navy wife just deployed to Afghanistan less than a week ago.  Then I thought of Jim who has been separated from his partner for over a year.  Lastly, I thought of Meredith, the mother of three and partner of a soldier, preparing for an upcoming move to a new duty station in a new state on top of her partner’s possible deployment.  These are just a few of our stories which sound like the “typical” life of a military spouse. However, these stories are anything but “typical.”  Like me, Anacelly and Meredith are considered just “caregivers” for their children who are military dependents.  Jim’s partner is on a 2 year assignment in Japan. If the military recognized Jim as he should be and sponsored him for the overseas duty station like they do for heterosexual spouses, he could have accompanied his partner and they would not be separated.

I hope this event and events to come include more LGBT military families. We are very loyal, dedicated, and proud partners of our men and women in uniform.  Many argue we want “special rights,” which is farthest from the truth.  All we want is to be an integral part of the military community, who are acknowledged and appreciated by having the same rights as our heterosexual counterparts.

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This blog was published by the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ashley-broadway/happy-mothers-day-well-almost_b_1510840.html