US: Lesbian wife of Fort Bragg officer gets membership offer and ‘Spouse of the Year’ award

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The wife of a lesbian soldier who was denied membership to Fort Bragg’s spouses club has been invited to become a full member, hours after winning the base’s “Spouse of the Year” award.

In late 2012 Ashley Broadway made inquiries into joining the military spouses’ club at Fort Bragg where her wife, Lt. Col. Heather Mack, is stationed as a soldier, but was rejected. The decision of the Association of Bragg Officers’ Spouses (ABOS) was backed up by the Pentagon, who said that anti-discrimination laws did not extend to sexual orientation.

The club then offered a “special guest membership” to Mrs Broadway, which she turned down on the grounds that it was “insulting”.

On Friday she was voted the Fort’s “Spouse of the Year” following an online vote. Founder of ‘Military Spouse’ magazine Babette Maxwell said Mrs Broadway had won “by a country mile”.

“People got one vote per email address — one ballot for the person you wanted to represent you. I think people would be unwilling to, quote-unquote, throw their vote away on simply doing what was popular,” Maxwell said. “There was a significant amount of meaning in what they were doing when they voted for Ashley.”

Mrs Broadway’s contributions to life in Fort Bragg, where she acts as a voluntary reading tutor to the children of soldiers, were cited as the reason for her winning the award.

“When I was denied membership, I asked to speak to the club’s board,” she said. “I was convinced that if they’d just sit down with me for half an hour, if I could talk to them about what I’ve been doing, what I’ll be doing in the future, they would see what an asset I would be to the group.” Mrs Broadway was denied the meeting.

After her award win on Friday she was contacted by ABOS to let her know that the club had backed down after two months and decided to let her apply for membership.

She said she would soon submit her application: “I need to educate some of the naysayers that are in that group and show them my family is just like their family.”

The club’s board made the following statement: “After further reviewing the (club’s) constitution, by-laws and internal procedures, the ABOS Board felt that in order to immediately support all military Officer spouses who are eligible for ABOS membership a more inclusive definition of spouse was needed. Therefore, any Spouse of an active duty commissioned or warrant Officer with a valid marriage certificate from any state or district in the United States is eligible for ABOS membership.”

On the attention she has received over the membership row, Mrs Broadway said: “I never thought in a million years I would be the one to advance the cause. If that’s what it’s going to take to get attention for all the military same-sex spouses, then so be it.”

She added, “I do take this (Bragg ‘spouse of the year’ award) very seriously. And we’ll see where it goes from here.”

The couple also had cause to celebrate earlier in the week, as Mrs Mack gave birth to their second child on Tuesday.