The Marine Corps has advised its legal staff that spouses clubs operating on its installations must admit same-sex spouses if they wish to remain on the bases – a move that has infuriated religious liberty groups.
The Associated Press obtained a legal advisory from the Marines which refers to an ongoing controversy at the Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina. In that particular incident, the officers’ spouses club has denied admission to a same-sex spouse.
Underscoring the challenges, the Marines’ legal advisory — obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press — refers to an ongoing controversy at the Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina where the officers’ spouses club has denied admission to a same-sex spouse.
The Marine Corps commandant’s Staff Judge Advocate, in an e-mail to legal offices throughout the corps, said the Fort Bragg events had “caused quite a stir” and cautioned, “We do not want a story like this developing in our backyard.”
The memo noted that spouses clubs and various other private institutions are allowed to operate on bases only if they adhere to a non-discrimination policy encompassing race, religion, gender, age, disability and national origin.
“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.
A Marine Corps spokesman, Capt. Eric Flanagan, told the Associated Press 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.”
Ret. Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, told Fox News that he’s not surprised by the Marine Corps’ decision.
“It should be expected,” said Boykin, an executive vice president of the Family Research Council. “When Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, it opened the door to all kinds of things that are counter to the traditions and the good order and discipline of the military.”
Boykin said the further erosion of values in the military is dangerous for the nation. He said changing those values destroys the “last vestige of traditional American values” and “robs America of its identity.”
“The military is the anchor of our society,” he told Fox News. “It always has been – the military has maintained traditions that go back to the founding of the nation. Those values are based on the Judeo-Christian roots of the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”
“This is very disappointing news,” said Ron Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance. “This is very concerning that the Marine Corps is pressing forward with this agenda and ignoring federal law.”
Crews told Fox News most spouse groups have bylaws that require members to have a DOD military identification card.
“Right now, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, those so-called same-sex spouses are not recognized as spouses because of DOMA and they cannot receive a DOD identification card,” he said.
Crews said it appears that the fears of religious liberty groups have come true.
“The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was one step in a long process to eventually work for the overthrow for the Defense of Marriage Act,” he said. “That’s what’s happening now.”
He said there have already been same-sex weddings on military installations in states where gay marriage is outlawed.
“This is a serious issue,” Crews said.
He wondered how the Marine Corps memorandum might jeopardize religious groups that meet on military bases.
“One wonders whether this Marine memorandum will impact ministries, too,” he said.
The Marine Corps decision was hailed by a number of gay military groups including OutServe — who is calling on the Defense Department to consider similar rules for all service branches.
“Secretary Panetta should use his authority immediately to bring consistency across the services with regard to this issue and in doing so, a greater measure of equity to gay and lesbian service members and their families,” said OutServe executive director Allyson Robinson in a statement.
With reporting from Associated Press