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LGBT Groups Fight Back Against Military Policies That Exclude Same-Sex Spouses

OutServe-SLDN seeks records of Fort Bragg leaders' discussions regarding the spouses group that meets at the base. The Human Rights Campaign is asking Defense Secretary Panetta for action now to help address the situation.

Posted on January 16, 2013, at 5:57 p.m. ET

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pauses at a news conference on Jan. 10, 2013.
Evan Vucci / AP

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pauses at a news conference on Jan. 10, 2013.

WASHINGTON — The Army leadership at Fort Bragg is facing a public records request from the leading LGBT military group, seeking information on whether the military leaders are "working for them or against them," following BuzzFeed's Tuesday report that the Army would not stop a spouses group from meeting on the military base there despite the group's policy against allowing the same-sex partner of officers.

In a letter dated Wednesday, the legal director of OutServe-SLDN submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking communications over the past six months relating to the membership policies of the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses, which denied membership to Ashley Broadway. Broadway is married to Army Lt. Col. Heather Mack.

The reason for the request, OutServe-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson told BuzzFeed, is that "[g]ay and lesbian military families at Fort Bragg and throughout the armed services deserve to know if their chain of command is working for them or against them. If there is a coordinated effort that would undermine the principle that every service member and his or her family should be treated impartially, our nation's leaders at the Pentagon need to know as well."

Specifically, the OutServe-SLDN request seeks information about communications received by or sent from the North Carolina Army installation's commanding officer, Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, and several others regarding "the operation, continued operation, or membership or admission policies or practices of the Club."

The public records request wasn't the only fallout from the Tuesday comments of the Army's Fort Bragg spokesman, who told BuzzFeed that the private group was able to continue to operate on the base because "federal discrimination laws don't extend to sexual orientation." A Pentagon spokesman backed the decision Tuesday night, citing a 2008 policy setting guidelines for recognition of outside groups by military entities that did not require sexual orientation nondiscrimination.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT political organization, accordingly is seeking immediate action from the Defense Department.

HRC president Chad Griffin said in a statement, "[W]e call on Secretary Panetta to immediately issue military regulations that will allow the spouses and partners of gay service members access to a military ID. This benefit is crucial to accessing many of the benefits and services offered to military families."

At one point, the spouses group had told Broadway that she would not be able to be a member because she did not have a military ID card that would allow her access on the base. The LGBT military group, then SLDN, has been seeking Pentagon action regarding the ID cards since before "don't ask, don't tell" repeal.

A White House spokesman, meanwhile, did not respond to a request for comment about whether the president supports the Pentagon's reliance on the 2008 policy to permit continued military recognition of private groups that exclude same-sex spouses of servicemembers.

OutServe-SLDN FOIA Request