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Army Chaplain To Lesbian Soldier And Her Wife: You’re “Ineligible” For Marriage Retreat

DADT may be dead, but discrimination against LGBT soldiers is a long way from being over.

A lesbian couple allege they were barred from participating in a military marriage retreat at Fort Irwin, a national training center located in the Mojave Desert in northern San Bernardino County, California.

According to the Military TimesShakera Leigh Halford and her wife, who is a soldier at the fort, claim a chaplain told them they were “ineligible” for a marriage retreat called Strong Bonds because of their sexual orientation, despite the fact that they are legally married.

In a statement, Halford said:

“I’m very sad and disappointed. 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 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?”

The Military Times reports that the retreat was facilitated by the Chaplain Corps, a community of ordained clergy within in the military whose purpose is to offer religious services, counseling, and moral support to soldiers. The publication also notes that LGBT activists say discrimination like this is not uncommon between LGBT soldiers and the Chaplain Corps. They are now calling for the Defense Department to step in and help resolve ongoing tensions between LGBT troops and the chaplains who refuse to serve them.

“The question is, ‘What is the Defense Department going to do to secure the rights of LGBT soldiers when it conflicts with the chaplain endorsing agencies?” Chris Rowzee, a spokeswoman for the American Military Partner Association, which is representing Halford, said to the publication. “Although we are concerned for Shakera Halford and her spouse, our concern is the bigger picture of how the Chaplain Corps is responding to the needs of our service members.”

Officials at Fort Irwin have yet to release a statement in response to the incident.

Photo credit: Thomas Hart

By:           Graham Gremore
On:           Nov 22, 2013
Tagged: , , , , ,
  • 7 Comments
    • Cam
      Cam

      I’m done with this shit. The military has had multiple scandals and examples of these nut-job right wing religious idiots getting in there. If we do not want to gradually turn into another Afghanistan or Iran it’s time that these ignorant hillbillys were kicked out or taught that just because they are there in case somebody of their religion needs their services they have no authority and will be kicked out for discrimination.

      Hiding behind your religion is no longer an excuse to defend your bigotry.

      Nov 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hyhybt
      hyhybt

      Eliminating chaplains would put an unreasonable burden on the people they serve. Forcing those of them who disbelieve that lesbian couples qualify as married to provide couples services for them would, apart from anything else, provide some of the first legitimate fuel for the “the gays are coming after our religious freedom” scare tactic. Turning that from the lie it currently is into truth would turn a lot of current allies against us in general. (Forcing it also wouldn’t be effective for something so intangible.)

      The best solution, though not a quick one, would be to distribute those chaplains who are supportive as widely as possible and to take them preferentially over others when new applicants come along, however that’s done.

      Nov 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      @hyhybt: said…

      “Eliminating chaplains would put an unreasonable burden on the people they serve. Forcing those of them who disbelieve that lesbian couples qualify as married to provide couples services for them would, apart from anything else, provide some of the first legitimate fuel for the “the gays are coming after our religious freedom” scare tactic.”
      ______________

      No, when it is an official military event then the Chaplins must abide by the law. The same way that a Strict Muslim cleric cannot ban women from a militarily sanctioned event.

      Nov 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hyhybt
      hyhybt

      I may have misunderstood the nature of the event.

      Nov 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • aequalitasTN
      aequalitasTN

      I think the problem is inherently larger here. Military chaplains are also commissioned officers, and as such, part of the command structure. This is discrimination within the ranks, at an official event. While anyone has the right to believe what s/he wants, you are sworn as a military officer to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and like it or not, according to the Supreme Court, whose job it is to interpret that Constitution, these people are married. No one is forcing you to believe anything contrary to your religious convictions, you can believe whatever you like, just don’t officiate at an official event if you are unable to serve all those in uniform. I personally think it is wrong to commission an officer who cannot serve their country and all of their fellow service members equally. The test of the practice of one’s faith (notice practice NOT belief) has always been, in this country, whether or not it interferes with someone else’s rights.

      Let me put it to everyone this way, would we tolerate an officer racially discriminating against another service member based on that officer’s religious beliefs? Believing in something and actively putting it into practice to suppress another citizen’s rights are two completely different things.

      Nov 22, 2013 at 7:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DarkZephyr
      DarkZephyr

      As supportive of the religious as I like to be, sometimes it is SO tempting to be sick of religion.

      Nov 23, 2013 at 3:51 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • balehead
      balehead

      Sounds like they just want to get rid of the men….and take their jobs ..

      Nov 24, 2013 at 7:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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