Couples

USAF lesbian couple first to receive ‘Join Spouse’ assignment

Ryan Conroy, U.S. Air Force
Tech. Sgt. Stacy Shunk, and Master Sgt. Angela Shunk. Staff Reports

Just three months after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, a lesbian couple in the U.S. Air Force has learned they will receive an assignment together under the service’s Join Spouse program, the first same-sex couple to obtain the joint assignment.

Ryan Conroy, U.S. Air ForceTech. Sgt. Stacy Shunk, and Master Sgt. Angela Shunk.

Ryan Conroy, U.S. Air Force
Tech. Sgt. Stacy Shunk, and Master Sgt. Angela Shunk.

After previously denying their repeated requests for “Join Spouse” consideration, the Air Force granted Master Sgt. Angela Shunk and her wife, Tech. Sgt. Stacey Shunk, an assignment at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah.

Prior to the June 26 Supreme Court decision, the Shunks requested an “exception to policy” for a military couple assignment. Air Force regulations for assignments guidance noted that exceptions to the Joint Spouse policy would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

In February, the Shunks said that when the Air Force turned down their first request, they submitted a second one, providing more detail on how a permanent separation would affect them.

“I guess we were naive going into this, thinking we would be granted an exception” by stating the obvious, said Angela Shunk, adding that “being separated would cause us financial hardship and also emotional hardship from being separated from each other.”

The Shunks told the Air Force that being separated would make it difficult to conceive a child through medical procedures or be accepted as prospective parents into an adoption program.

The Air Force politely, but firmly, denied their second request, the couple said.

But after the DOMA decision, the couple tried again and learned this week that their application for a joint assignment was accepted on the same day they submitted their last application, September 3 — the first day the Pentagon made a range of federal benefits available to same-sex spouses of members of the military.

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“It was really great. We were really excited,” Angela Shunk told Stars & Stripes from her current assignment at Aviano AFB Italy. “We’re so happy the process is finally over and we’re going to be stationed at the same location.”

A spokesman with the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph AFB in San Antonio, Texas, confirmed that the Air Force has received three applications for a same-sex join spouse assignment and so far approved one.

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