The U.S. Marine Corps said it has advised its legal staff that spouses clubs operating on its installations must admit same-sex spouses if they wish to remain on Marine bases.
The announcement comes in response to a an ongoing controversy at the U.S. Army‘s Fort Bragg installation 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,” reported the Associated Press.
The memo noted that spouses clubs and other private groups 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.
“The Marine Corps guidance issued today is a breakthrough and a clear indication that General Amos meant what he said when he said Marines would lead the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” said Allyson Robinson, Executive Director of Outserve-SLDN, an advocacy group for LGBT service members and veterans.
“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 LGBT service members and their families,” said Robinson, in a statement.
Robinson has repeatedly called on the Pentagon to end its two years of silence on issues affecting LGBT military families, including benefits that may be extended to them immediately by the Department of Defense without conflicting with the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).