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