Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Colonel Has Right Not To Recognize His Gay Master Sergeant’s Spouse, Air Force Says
The Air Force has exonerated a colonel who said his religious beliefs prevented him from signing certificate of spouse appreciation for a retiring master sergeant’s same-sex spouse.
Col. Leland Bohannon was suspended after he had a higher-ranking officer sign the certificate in his stead, but he successfully appealed to the Director of the Air Force Review Boards Agency, the Air Force said in a statement.
“The Air Force concluded that Colonel Bohannon had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate of appreciation for the same sex spouse of an airman in his command,” the Air Force statement says.
“The Air Force has a duty to treat people fairly and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation and met that duty by having a more senior officer sign the certificate.”
Bohannon’s records will now be updated to reflect his successful appeal, the statement says. The Air Force declined to respond when Task & Purpose asked if the service condones Bohannon’s religious beliefs on gays and lesbians.
The colonel had the support of lawmakers such as Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., who wrote Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in November to argue that the service’s protections for airmen based on their sexual orientation are against the law.
“Congress and the courts have rejected the notion that ‘sex’ includes ‘sexual orientation,’” Hartzler wrote. “The Air Force does not have the liberty to define new legal protections and this should certainly not constitute the grounds to punish airmen.”
The Air Force should have granted Bohannon a religious accommodation because the certificate “effectively had zero impact to the military member and therefore no adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, or health and safety,” Hartzler wrote.
Religious freedom is at the heart of the case, said Mike Berry, an attorney with the First Liberty Institute, who represented Bohannon. The institute is a self-described advocate for First Amendment religious protections.
Berry said the First Liberty Institute takes no position on whether gay and lesbian service members have the right to be married. In this case, Bohannon accommodated the master sergeant by having a two-star general sign the certificate, but the Air Force did not respond in kind, he said.
“There is a narrow religious liberty issue in this case, and that’s what we sought to address,” Berry told Task & Purpose. “A commander – or really any service member – who dons the uniform of the United States need not – and should never – be required to forfeit their constitutional rights, simply by virtue of being in the military.”
Berry said he did not argue that Bohannon’s First Amendment rights outweighed the Air Force’s instruction protecting airmen from discrimination based on sexual orientation. In this case, the certificate was for the master sergeant’s spouse, not the airman.
“Where do we draw the line between a service member’s religious freedom and other rights – I think that’s a question for the courts to decide,” Berry said. “The Constitution, Supreme Court case law and Air Force regulations all say that what happened to Col. Bohannon was wrong, that his religious rights should have been protected.”
However, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian troops and veterans has expressed its dismay at the Air Force’s decision to exonerate Bohannon.
“The purported argument that a leader is being discriminated against because we refuse to let them discriminate is both trite and detestable,” said Andy Blevins, director of law and policy for OutServe-SLDN. “It has been continually affirmed that the right to religious freedom within our military ranks stops when it begins to diminish unit cohesion and morale.
“In this instance,” he added, “that attenuation is very clear.”
One year in, Army Futures Command is fully up and running. Here's some of the new tech it's been working on
Army Futures Command will reach fully operational status just before the newest gem of the Army's modernization plan sees its first birthday on August 24th, officials announced on Tuesday.
AFC Commander Gen. John "Mike" Murray told reporters at a technologies showcase on Tuesday that the command will be fully operational on July 31st before showing off everything AFC personnel have been working on over the last year, from night vision goggles and robotic vehicles to new air- and missile-defense capabilities.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) has been told to stop using the Marine Corps' emblem and the 1st Marine Division's motto in his campaign literature, Corps officials confirmed.
The Marine Corps Trademark Licensing Office has sent Hunter, a Marine veteran, a cease and desist letter telling him to quit using the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem along with the phrase, "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy," on a fundraising mailer that accuses his political opponent of having links to terrorism, NBC News first reported on Wednesday.
Army recruiter allegedly solicited girls as young as 10 for sex while calling himself 'Colorado batman'
Arapahoe County sheriff's deputies have arrested a U.S. Army recruiter for investigation of soliciting girls as young as 10 years old for sex after he allegedly sent selfies calling himself "Colorado batman," the sheriff's department reported.
An Army appeals court has rejected Bowe Bergdahl's claim that President Trump's public description of him as "a no-good traitor who should have been executed" and other comments on the disgraced soldier's case constituted unlawful command influence (UCI).
The Marine Corps must update its parental-leave policies to give new moms and dads time with their newborns, the service's new top general wrote this week, including considering a full year's worth of leave for women who've had a child.
"These outcomes should never be in competition to the extent that success with one will come at the expense of the other," Berger wrote. "Our parental/maternity leave policies are inadequate and have failed to keep pace with societal norms and modern talent management practices."