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Fort Irwin denies discrimination


FORT IRWIN • Fort Irwin officials responded to an Army Times report of alleged discrimination, stating that the Army post is working to accommodate same-sex couples.

The Army Times reported last week that a legally married female couple was denied participation in a marriage enrichment program at Fort Irwin.

According to the report, a female soldier approached the Army’s Chaplain Corps earlier this month about participating in a Strong Bonds retreat at the base with her wife, but the couple was denied because of their sexual orientation.

“Strong Bonds is chaplain-led, and chaplains must conduct their religious duties in accordance with the standards of their religious organization,” said a written statement released to the Desert Dispatch on Monday by Fort Irwin spokeswoman Pamela Portland.

According to the statement, there is currently not a chaplain at Fort Irwin whose religious beliefs would permit them to provide services to same-sex couples in the Strong Bonds program. On Nov. 7, the National Training Center Commanding General directed his Command Chaplain to find a chaplain who could provide the service at the base on temporary duty, according to the statement.

“No soldier or family has been denied participation in Strong Bonds on the basis of their sexual orientation,” the statement reads. “The remote location and limited chaplain resources of Fort Irwin 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 to find a chaplain.”

According to the Army statement, another solution offered to the couple was a Strong Bonds event that welcomes all couples — including same-sex couples — in San Diego in December and January.

The soldier’s wife, Shakera Leigh Halford, told the Army Times, “I feel like we have to fight for something that should be readily available. I just don’t think it’s fair.”

The Army said in its statement that it is “aware of this challenge, and is actively seeking resolutions.”

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