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Fort Irwin denies that gay military couple were barred from marriage enrichment retreat

FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- U.S. Army officials are denying a report that a legally married same-gender couple at Fort Irwin, California have been denied participation in a marriage enrichment program on the base.

The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), a resource and support network for LGBT military spouses and their families, made the allegations this week and the story was published by San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

The Fort Irwin Public Affairs Office released a statement refuting the allegation that a lesbian soldier was turned away from participating in a "Strong Bonds" marriage enrichment retreat at the base with her wife, AMPA member Shakera Leigh Halford. They stated that when they became aware there were no chaplains at the base whose religious affiliation would permit them to provide this service to same-gender couples, the Commander directed that a chaplain be brought in from another base to provide the service.

Further, the Army statement said that the Commander then met with the couple to reassure them they were seeking support.

But Halford, the wife of the active-duty U.S. soldier, reports that no one from the base command structure or the chaplain’s office has contacted her, no one has met with her, nor has anyone communicated that there are any “alternative arrangements” being made to provide them support.

“No one told us there was any alternative being sought; they just said we weren’t 'eligible'" Halford said.

When told that another program might be planned, one that they could attend, Halford expressed concerns about “separate, but equal” treatment.

“I feel like we are being spotlighted, singled out, for special arrangements. It makes the whole thing very awkward and embarrassing," she said. "Why can’t we just be another couple at the retreat, like everyone else? Why do we have to have special arrangements?”

“Obviously, there are a number of gay and lesbian military couples experiencing this issue,” said Stephen Peters, president of AMPA.

“We have a report from other AMPA members stationed in Hawaii and at Fort Bragg who also were denied participation in these retreats, and no other arrangements were made for them, which is completely unacceptable. The military policy in place currently surrounding this issue smacks of the civil rights era 'separate but equal' mentality, which we all know was not equal and was discriminatory. Additionally, it is clear that even the discriminatory policy in place is not being followed and is not working. It is leaving our modern military families without the necessary support they need to overcome the challenges associated with military life."

For more information about AMPA and LGBT military families, please visit HERE.