USAF Lesbian Couple First To Receive Joint Spouse Assignment
|Angela Shunk, left, Stacey Shunk|
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Master Sergeant Angela Shunk and her wife, Technical Sgt. Stacey Shunk, received word this week that the U. S. Air Force, after denying repeated requests for "joint spouse consideration," was assigning the enlisted couple to Hill Air Force Base, just outside of Ogden, Utah, for their next duty post. This is a first for the Air Force since the ruling overturning the Defence of Marriage Act by the U. S. Supreme Court in June.
A spokesman with the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph AFB in San Antonio, Texas confirmed that the Air Force has received three applications for a same-sex join spouse assignment and so far approved one.
The Shunks were among the first military same-sex couples to benefit from the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in September 2011. The two airmen were married the next spring of March, 2012, and were no longer forced to hide their relationship.
However, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act barred them from receiving tax benefits and military spousal benefits including medical care and base housing, as well the fact they were unable to request a joint assignment.
Prior to the June SCOTUS ruling, they requested an “exception to policy” for a military couple assignment. Air Force regulations for assignments guidance noted that exceptions to the Joint Spouse policy would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
In a February interview with Stars & Stripes, the Shunks’ said that when the AF turned down their first request, they submitted a second one, providing more detail on how a permanent separation would affect them.
“I guess we were naive going into this, thinking we would be granted an exception” by stating the obvious, Angela Shunk said adding, “that being separated would cause us financial hardship and also emotional hardship from being separated from each other.”
The Shunks told the Air Force that being separated would make it difficult to conceive a child through medical procedures or be accepted as prospective parents into an adoption program. The Air Force politely, but firmly, denied their second request.
After DOMA was overturned, the couple tried again and learned this week that their application for a joint assignment was accepted on the same day they submitted their last application, September 3. That was the first day the Pentagon made a range of federal benefits available to same-sex spouses of members of the military.
"It was really great. We were really excited," Angela Shunk said in a phone interview this week from her current assignment at Aviano AFB Italy. "We’re so happy the process is finally over and we’re going to be stationed at the same location."
The ruling on DOMA nearly came too late for the couple as Stacey Shunk had received orders to Hickam AFB Hawaii this past May followed by Angela's orders reassigning her to Hill AFB Utah in July.
Veterans Home of Chula Vista holds first same-sex wedding
|John Banvard, left, and Gerard Nadeau via KSWB San Diego|
CHULA VISTA, Calif. – A senior living facility for military veterans held its first ever same-sex marriage Thursday. John Banvard, 95, a World War II veteran married his boyfriend of 20 years, 67-year-old Gerard Nadeau, a Vietnam vet in a ceremony at the Veterans Home of Chula Vista in suburban San Diego.
The couple told local Fox affiliate KSWB they wanted to have their ceremony among friends, so they chose to have it at the Veteran’s Home, where they’ve lived for the last three years. The decision to get married was made after the SCOTUS ruling in June that overturned DOMA along with the ruling on California's Prop 8 which had banned same-sex marriage in the state.
“We were waiting on the Supreme Court to make that decision,” said Banvard.
The simple ceremony was attended by the couple's friends who also live at the facility one of whom noted; “The world is changing, we have to go along with it.” said one guest.
Facility director Neal Asper said news of two men getting married at the VA home wasn’t well received by everyone. A town hall meeting was held at the VA home to address concerns from other residents.
“It’s been somewhat controversial,” said Asper. “I told them, they have the right to get married here just like everybody else.”
One resident told KSWB he didn’t agree with Banvard and Nadeau’s celebration of their love for each other, but supported their legal right to do so.
“I just know that it’s against my faith and my religion, but as Americans they have a right to do what they want to do,” he said.
The newlyweds hope the wedding will encourage other same-sex seniors couples to do the same.