An highly decorated Air Force colonel claims he was unfairly reprimanded for refusing to acknowledge a service members’s same-sex partner.
In May, Col. Leland Bohannon, then-commander of the Air Force Inspection Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, was asked to sign certificates for a retiring master sergeant—including a “certificate of spouse appreciation” for the sergeant’s husband. Bohannon refused, claiming it would conflict with his religious beliefs. After consulting with the base chaplain, he filed a religious accommodation request excusing him from signing the document.
Typically such a request would be approved or denied, but his was returned “without incident,” according to The Albuquerque Journal.
Eventually an off-base officer signed the certificate, but the master sergeant filed an Equal Opportunity complaint, alleging Bohannon unlawfully discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation. As a result, Bohannon—ho was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan—was transferred to a post in Washington, D.C. In addition, a letter was sent recommending he not be promoted to brigadier general.
Bohannon appealed, asking that any negative recommendations be removed from his service record and that proper training be given to address such situations in the future. “No airman… should ever have to forfeit their religious beliefs in order to serve in the military,” said attorney Mike Berry of the First Liberty Institute, which is representing Bohannan.
In the appeal, Berry notes that “there is no legal right to a spouse certificate of appreciation… Moreover, the instruction does not require the commander to personally sign a certificate, should one be issued.”
Several Republican Senators, including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Roy Blunt, have taken up Bohannan’s cause and sent a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force.
Berry has indicated they will take legal action if necessary.