Lesbian ‘Spouse of the Year’ Wins PR Battle Against Bragg Officers Spouses Association
When the Association of Bragg Officers Spouses at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, turned down Ashley Broadway for membership because her wife, LTC Heather Mack of the 1st Theatre Sustainment Command, was also a woman, they probably didn’t expect this: Readers of Military Spouse magazine chose Broadway for the Fort Bragg Military Spouse of the Year.
She will now go on to compete for the Army-wide spouse of the year title.
Broadway has been with her wife for over 15 years. They are raising a son together and have another child on the way. Broadway now serves as a board member and the Director of Family Affairs for the American Military Partner Association, an organization that works to support and connect spouses and partners of gay and lesbian service members.
First Lady Michelle Obama gave the organization a boost last year by receiving them at a Mothers’ Day Tea.
Broadway received a number of nominations from readers of Military Spouse, who cited a number of contributions she made to the community even prior to the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which forced same-sex partners and spouses of military members into the shadows, since getting outed usually meant the end of the servicemembers’ career.
Some highlights from her nominations:
Ashley has worked with many of these gay and lesbian military families to show them how they can utilize the Army’s Family Care Plan to list the same-sex spouse as a care giver, thereby giving them access to the base and enabling them to give better care to their family. She has a heart for all military families, especially those with children, and is constantly working to help them. Not only does she personally give up her time and energy to help them, she is always working to help their stories and the unique struggles they face be told in the media.
She has given money out of her own pocket to help lower ranking families with moving costs. (Not covered by the military for same sex families.)
Ms. Broadway is a veteran of over 15 years as a military spouse, including two deployments for her spouse, and seven PCS moves.
Broadway perhaps got a boost at a critical juncture – when she was rejected for membership by the Fort Bragg Spouse’s Association, her story circulated widely in social media circles in the military spouse community. She was also profiled on Time magazine’s prominent Battleland blog. And finally, the AMPA mobilized its members to vote for her via their Facebook page, which had 7,853 followers.
In December, Broadway applied to join the Association of Bragg Officers Spouses. They turned her down, however, simply stating that she “did not qualify.” Broadway responded by going public – and asking the Association’s board of directors to reconsider, via an open letter on the Association of Military Partners of America’s website.
The Bragg Officers Spouses Association took down their Facebook page as the story began to gain traction in social media. They also took down their bylaws from the website, pending review. The Association of Military Partners, on the other hand, ramped up their social media and traditional media outreach.
In the mounting public relations battle, the battlefield calculus was rapidly moving in Broadway’s favor.
“Ashley is not a ‘guest’ military spouse. She is a military spouse, plain and simple,” Stephen Peters, of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement to Military Times. “So the idea that the organization, in order to end the negative attention they are getting because of their outright discrimination, wants to give her a ‘guest membership’ is not only offensive, but ridiculous.”
On January 25th, the Association caved, announcing publicly that they were changing the criteria for membership to include any person with a valid marriage certificate to a Fort Bragg officer from any state. They publicly invited Broadway to apply for membership.