Ft. Bragg Spouses Club Defends Itself After Same-Sex Wife Claims Discrimination

Ashley Broadway, a same-sex spouse living on Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina, has publicly complained that an on-base spouses club is practicing sexual discrimination by providing her only a "guest membership," as opposed to full membership, because she is a lesbian.

The spouses club, known as the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses [ABOS], argues that it has not discriminated against Broadway, but rather provided her with guest membership because Broadway never formally applied to join the club and it needed time to "look at the issue."

"I correlate 'guest membership' to saying, 'Heather, you can be gay and be in the military but we're not going to treat your spouse as equal.' I can be in this club but I can't have full membership? That's not acceptable," Broadway, wife of 15-year companion Lt. Col. Heather Mack, whom she married in November, told NBC News in a Jan. 17 interview.

"I'm either going to be a member or not. I applied to be a full member with a vote," she said, adding, "I am declining their offer."

Broadway was reportedly told a month ago that she would not be allowed full membership into ABOS because she did not possess a military I.D. card.

Due to the fact that same-sex marriage is still not recognized at a federal level because of the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples in the military do not receive many of the benefits of heterosexual couples, such as military spouse identification cards.

"ABOS' membership application does not explicitly require a valid [Department of Defense] I.D. Card but some member benefits and events do require a valid DoD I.D. Card," read a statement issued to NBC News by ABOS.

This week, the association offered Broadway a guest membership, meaning she may attend all club functions but cannot vote on club matters, "in a continued attempt to support all military families," according to an ABOS statement released to the Los Angeles Times.

According to the LA Times, ABOS President Mary Ring issued a letter to Broadway providing her with guest membership "while [the association's] by-laws are being reviewed."

Same-sex marriage activists are now accusing ABOS of retroactively changing its policy to require I.D. cards so that it can have a definitive reason to exclude Broadway from its group.

The association argues that it never changed its laws; rather, they are simply in a review process.

"ABOS' by-laws were never changed retroactively in an attempt to exclude anyone. The ABOS Board's bi-annual review of the by-laws began in July 2012, at which time the by-laws were removed from the ABOS website and continue to be under review," a statement released by the association read.

"Since the by-laws were written and adopted well before the repeal of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' the term 'Spouse' is not defined," the statement added.

Although Fort Bragg military officials have decided to stay out of the dispute, as the ABOS is a private institution, the Marine Corps sent a legal memo ordering private on-base clubs to admit same-sex spouses.

"No person shall be discriminated against because of race, color, creed, sex, age, disability, or national origin or otherwise subjected to unlawful discrimination," read the memo.

An Army spokesperson told the LA Times that the Army has no plans to follow the Marines in issuing an anti-discrimination directive regarding private on-base clubs.

The U.S. military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy was officially repealed in Sept. 2011, subsequently making open homosexuality acceptable within the military.

Critics contend that the actual degree to which homosexual members of the military practice their sexuality after the policy's repeal is still debatable, and homosexual couples do not receive many of the same benefits as heterosexual couples because same-sex marriage is still not recognized on a federal level.