News Column

Lesbian Voted as Fort Bragg's Military Spouse of the Year, to Compete for National Recognition

Jan 25, 2013

Drew Brooks

This year's winner of a competition to name Fort Bragg's military spouse of the year isn't like past winners.

That's because Ashley Broadway isn't recognized as a spouse under federal law.

Broadway, the wife of Lt. Col. Heather Mack of Fort Bragg's 1st Theater Sustainment Command, was selected to represent Fort Bragg in the 2013 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year competition.

Broadway will be pitted against winners from other Army installations next month. The award, presented by Military Spouse magazine, will be presented later this year.

Online voting on Feb. 5 at msoy.militaryspouse.com will decide who will be voted the Army-wide spouse of the year.

The Army winner will then compete against winners from the five other service branches for the title of 2013 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year.

Broadway has garnered national media attention in recent weeks because of a dispute with the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses, which has barred Broadway from being a full member of the organization.

The American Military Partner Association, a support network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military families, praised Broadway's selection.

Broadway is a member of the organization, which has supported her throughout her dispute with the spouses club.

"Considering the amount of hard work, volunteer time and invaluable assistance that she has dedicated to helping all military families over the years, in addition to the unwavering support she has provided to her wife on active duty and their children, no one deserves this recognition more than Ashley Broadway," said AMPA's president, Stephen Peters.

The award began in 2008, according to Military Spouse magazine.

At the installation level, winners are selected by popular vote.

The winners for the Army spouse of the year and military spouse of the year titles will be selected with a combination of popular vote and a panel of judges that includes representatives from the magazine, Armed Forces Insurance and the wives of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Judges' criteria include: impact on community change, volunteer efforts, personal sacrifice, professional pursuits, goals, and specific efforts to support the military community, according to the magazine.

Babette Maxwell, executive editor of Military Spouse magazine, said Broadway and other installation winners were a "true representation of what the military spouse community has to offer."

"All of the winners have extraordinary accomplishments and achievements," Maxwell said.

But Peters said the award also highlights the discrepancies in how same-sex military spouses are treated when compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

Broadway "is still denied military benefits, official recognition from the Defense Department, and even a full membership to the post's main officers' spouses club," Peters said. "We continue to anxiously wait for action from the White House and the Pentagon to correct this continuing injustice."

Broadway has been in a relationship with Mack for more than 15 years, but said more than 13 of those years were spent under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

"For over 13 years I had to stay hidden, unable to send my love one off to war, attend welcome home celebrations, or receive invites from the [Family Readiness Group]," Broadway said. "Yes, my marriage is both unique and rare in our military community. I am a proud same-sex spouse of an Army officer and mother of an amazing son."

Broadway's recognition, even as she continues to fight for membership in the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses and while the federal Defense of Marriage Act bars her and other same-sex spouses from receiving some benefits, underscores how out of touch many military leaders are with military communities, said Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, formerly known as the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

"It is past time for the Pentagon to catch up and honor the service and sacrifice of all military families," Robinson said. "If Ashley's peers can bestow this honor on her, how can the Pentagon continue to pretend her family and others like them don't even exist, and continue to delay taking actions currently in it's authority to treat them the same as all other military families?"

Winners for the Army-wide competition will be announced Feb. 21, with national voting on March 5 for the top award.

"America's fighting men and women have endured an incredible burden during this past 11-plus years our nation has been at war," said Garry L. Parks, a retired Marine lieutenant general and chairman of the award sponsor, Armed Forces Insurance. "Simultaneously, the spouses of those deployed have been unsung heroes who maintain the home-front during these all-too-frequent deployments, selflessly give back to their communities though volunteer work, and provide moral support for their loved ones serving both at home and in harm's way."



Source: (c)2013 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.