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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 22 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 47
Army accused of bias against same-sex couple - Lesbian pair say they were barred from religious marriage retreat
Section One
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Army accused of bias against same-sex couple - Lesbian pair say they were barred from religious marriage retreat

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation's premier resource and support network for LGBT military spouses and their families, reports that a legally married same-gender couple at Fort Irwin, California, was denied participation in a U.S. Army marriage enrichment program.

'Today, a solider approached a chaplain at Fort Irwin about participating in a 'Strong Bonds' marriage enrichment retreat at the base with her wife, AMPA member Shakera Leigh Halford,' said AMPA officials in a news release this week. 'The marriage enrichment retreat is one of the many services run by the U.S. Army's Chaplain Corps. According to Shakera, the service member was told they were 'ineligible because of their sexual orientation and that they could not attend.'

PROCEDURE NOT FOLLOWED
By threatening to remove their endorsements, endorsing agencies for both the Southern Baptist Convention and Roman Catholic Church have prohibited their endorsed chaplains from providing services that in any way recognize or approve of same-gender marriage, said AMPA.

However, AMPA points out, 'military guidance to chaplains dictate that they must either perform the services or provide for that service by finding another chaplain who can. That guidance was not followed.'

'I'm very sad and disappointed,' said Shakera, the wife of the active-duty U.S. soldier. 'To know there are valuable resources available to soldiers and their families to help us through the challenges of military life, and then be told that we aren't eligible because of our sexual orientation ... it hurts, it really hurts. We're at a pretty secluded base and there aren't many other resources out there for us, so what are we supposed to do?'

'It is highly disturbing that Gay and Lesbian service members and their spouses are still being excluded from resources provided through the United States Army,' said Stephen Peters, president of AMPA. 'This is yet another example of the importance of adding sexual orientation to the Department of Defense nondiscrimination policy and equal opportunity program. It is far past time that our military families are protected from this kind of discrimination and valued for their service to our nation.'

For more information about the American Military Partner Association and LGBT military families, visit www.militarypartners.org.

ABOUT AMPA
The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), a nonpartisan and nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, D.C., is the nation's premier resource and support network for LGBT military spouses and their families. Founded and led by same-sex military partners in 2009 as the Campaign for Military Partners, AMPA is committed to 'connecting, supporting, honoring, and serving the partners and spouses of America's LGBT servicemembers and veterans.'

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