The following comes from a Nov. 22 story in the Army Times.
After a married same-sex couple at Fort Irwin, Calif., claimed a chaplain banned them from an Army marriage enrichment program because of their sexual orientation, post officials said they were scrambling to accommodate the couple.
Fort Irwin officials said Nov. 22 they are seeking a chaplain from outside the isolated post to lead a Strong Bonds retreat that could accommodate couples regardless of their sexual orientation. The religious beliefs of the chaplain originally set to lead the retreat did not permit him or her to provide services to same-sex couples.
The post’s news statement came a day after Shakera Leigh Halford said her wife, a soldier at the post, approached a chaplain at Fort Irwin through a coworker about participating in a Strong Bonds retreat at the base but was told the couple is “ineligible” because of their sexual orientation.
“That’s not fair,” Halford, 28, told Army Times. “Even though it’s a same-sex marriage, we have the same issues as other couples. What are we supposed to do, just suffer and try to figure out our issues on our own? What are we supposed to do? It’s just very upsetting.”
Halford recently joined her wife at the post, which is home to the National Training Center and located in the Mojave Desert. She was looking forward to accessing government-provided counseling and other resources as a couple, she said, but when they asked on Nov. 19 about the couples retreat in mid-December, the message was wait until the leader is replaced by a more accommodating chaplain in a few months.
“It came from a co-worker, but it was very clear, we were definitely not allowed to go because we are same-sex,” Halford said.
Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program aimed at building family resiliency. The Southern Baptist Convention, which provides the largest share of active-duty military chaplains, has barred members from taking part in weddings, counseling sessions and couples retreats for same-sex couples. Similar restrictions apply to Roman Catholic chaplains….
Pamela Portland, an Army spokeswoman at Fort Irwin, said in a statement the post’s remote location and limited pool of chaplains “created a temporary situation where same-sex married couples could not currently be supported with internal assets, so the command and the chaplains acted immediately.”
NTC commander Brig. Gen. Ted Martin has directed his command chaplain to bring in a chaplain for a temporary duty assignment to lead the retreat. Martin met with three affected couples to offer reassurance the command was working to provide them the same access as same-sex couples, according to Portland.
Portland said same-sex couples could be accommodated at a separate retreat offered in San Diego in December and January….
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