Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Air Force Upholds Right of Commander To Refuse To Sign Certificate For Same-Sex Spouse

Stars and Stripes reported yesterday that the Director of the Air Force Review Boards Agency has granted an appeal by an Air Force Colonel who had been disciplined for refusing to sign a "certificate of appreciation" for the same-sex spouse of a master sergeant in his unit who was retiring.  Col. Leland Bohannon refused to sign the certificate because he thought it would signify his personal endorsement of a marriage that violates his religious beliefs.  Eventually the certificate was instead signed by a two-star General.  The retiring master sergeant however filed an Equal Opportunity complaint, and Bohannon was stripped of command of the Air Force Inspection Agency and removed from consideration for a promotion to brigadier general.

In a letter (full text) to members of Congress who had intervened on Bohannon's behalf, the Secretary of the Air Force wrote:
The Director concluded that Colonel Bohannon had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate of appreciation.... The Air Force has a duty to treat people fairly and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation and met that duty by having a more senior officer sign the certificate.
The Air Force places a high value on the rights of its members to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all. The decision on appeal applied current Air Force policy and the law.  It is an example of a situation in which protected, and potentially competing, interests must be carefully examined and resolved.