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Army Says No ’Strong Bonds’ for Lesbian Couple

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Friday Nov 22, 2013

A legally married lesbian couple at Fort Irwin, Calif., says that they have been refused participation in an Army marriage enrichment program because they are gay.

According to the Military Times, Shakera Leigh Halford said that her wife, an active-duty soldier at Fort Irwin, was told that the couple was "ineligible" to participate in the "Strong Bonds" retreat because they are gay.

"I'm very sad and disappointed," Halford said. "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?"

The Army's Chaplain Corps, which runs the retreat, now joins the Southern Baptist Convention in barring members from participating in same-sex weddings, counseling sessions and couples retreats. The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention threatens to pull their endorsements from those chaplains who violate the rules.

"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 the American Military Partner Association, which is representing Halford, on AMPA's . "This is yet another example of the importance of adding sexual orientation to the Department of Defense non-discrimination 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."

It is now up to the military to find a way to resolve these conflicts under the Department of Defense's order to provide for the needs of all soldiers.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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