Right Opinion

Air Force Punishes Colonel Who Refused to Affirm Gay Marriage

Todd Starnes · Oct. 20, 2017

The Air Force has punished a highly decorated and respected colonel after he refused to publicly affirm the same-sex spouse of a retiring subordinate.

Col. Leland Bohannon, who was on the verge of being promoted to a one-star general, was suspended from command and orders were handed down recommending he not be promoted.

“His career is likely over and he will likely have to retire as a colonel instead of as a general,” First Liberty Institute attorney Michael Berry told the Todd Starnes Show.

First Liberty Institute, one of the nation’s most prominent religious liberty law firms, is representing the distinguished military officer.

“This sends a clear message — if you do not have the politically correct viewpoint, you are not welcome in the military,” Berry said. “The military is no longer a place of diversity and inclusion if you are a person who holds to a traditional belief on marriage.”

The Air Force did not respond to interview requests.

Col. Bohannon has flown combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and he is the recipient of the Bronze Star, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Medal.

Last May the colonel declined to sign a certificate of appreciation for a retiring master sergeant’s same-sex spouse.

He was unable to do so because it would have caused him to affirm a definition of marriage contrary to his sincerely held religious beliefs.

First Liberty Institute argues there is no Air Force instruction requiring a commander to personally sign a spouse certificate.

Col. Bohannon sought the advice of his Command Chaplain as well as the Staff Judge Advocate. He was advised to request a religious accommodation. However, that request was returned six weeks later “without action.”

A two-star general signed the certificate instead.

“[The colonel] went out of his way to make sure his airman was accommodated,” Berry told the Todd Starnes Show.

But when the master sergeant learned Col. Bohannon did not personally sign the spouse certificate, the airman filed an Equal Opportunity complaint.

The airman alleged the devout Christian colonel had “unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of his sexual orientation.”

The EO investigator determined the colonel had discriminated against the gay airman and went on to say that “even had the accommodation been granted, Col. Bohannon would nonetheless be guilty of unlawful discrimination.”

“You have a case where a decorated officer like Col. Bohannon demonstrates integrity and character to go out of his way to accommodate one of his airmen and the Air Force will not do the same for him,” Berry told the Todd Starnes Show.

First Liberty Institute is urging the Air Force to reverse its decision, charging that the military violated the defendant’s constitutional rights.

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