Air Force Fires Col Leland Bohannon for Not Affirming Homosexual Marriage

The US Air Force has fired a high ranking commander and denied him a promotion to General because he declined to personally affirm a homosexual relationship.

Col Leland B.H. Bohannon is still currently listed as the commander of the Air Force Inspection Agency, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico [Update: No longer. Now the AFIA commander is listed as Col Mark Pye, backdated to July 2017]. As detailed in a report filed by his lawyers, last May one of Col Bohannon’s subordinates retired. One of the customary presentations at a retirement is a spouse appreciation certificate, given to the spouse of the retiring member. In this case, Col Bohannon’s subordinate was a homosexual.

Col Bohannon felt that he could not sign the certificate because it would affirm a relationship that was contrary to his religious beliefs. Instead, Col Bohannon consulted both his chaplain and his JAG and then took two actions: First, he requested a religious accommodation — which was returned six weeks later without, oddly, being either approved or denied. Second, Col Bohannon coordinated to have MajGen Sami Said, the Air Force Deputy IG, sign the certificate in his stead. Gen Said’s signature would presumably have made the situation moot.

But, according to Col Bohannon’s appeal [emphasis added]

Upon learning that Col Bohannon did not personally sign the spouse certificate due to his sincerely held religious beliefs, the [retiring] MSgt filed a formal Equal Opportunity complaint.

The EO office substantiated an allegation of “unlawful discrimination” and claimed, illogically, that even if Col Bohannon had received a religious accommodation he would still have unlawfully discriminated (a conclusion that belies the very definition of “religious accommodation”). In response, LtGen Anthony Rock — the same person to whom Col Bohannon had made the unanswered accommodation request, and MajGen Sami Said’s direct supervisor — removed Col Bohannon from command and told the promotion board not to promote Col Bohannon to Brigadier General.

At some point therein, Col Bohannon engaged the First Liberty Institute, which filed the appeal (PDF) to the Air Force Review Boards Agency on his behalf.

If a homosexual Airman wanted to pick an ideological fight, he could hardly have chosen a poorer battle. If diversity, tolerance, and religious liberty are truly protected as essential freedoms in the US Air Force (as its public affairs officers frequently claim), this should be a quick mea culpa and reversal on the part of the Air Force.

First, it could hardly be clearer that an unofficial, optional certificate that lauds a “spouse” in a homosexual relationship would put the signatory in the position of personally affirming that relationship and its “value” to the retiring service member. That’s the entire point of the certificate, after all.

Second, Col Bohannon did not mistreat the Airman’s “spouse.” In fact, he arguably did them one better by having a much higher ranking officer sign the certificate. Within the limited information available, there is no indication Col Bohannon tried to inhibit, impede, or prevent the recognition of the Airman’s significant other. In fact, if the record is correct, Col Bohannon went out of his way to have the certificate signed. The only thing he declined to do was to be the individual who personally signed the certificate — and there is no law, regulation, or policy requiring Col Bohannon to sign that certificate.

Finally, it is worth noting Col Bohannon’s record to that date was above exemplary — as noted even by one of his previous commanders, now-BGen Kristin Goodwin — whose elevation to Commandant of the US Air Force Academy was noted by some due to her homosexuality. Then-Col Goodwin was the 2nd Bomb Wing Commander — and Col Bohannon was her Vice Wing Commander — her immediate subordinate. It would seem if Col Bohannon was really apt to discriminate against homosexuals, his then-direct supervisor, a homosexual herself, would have had something to say about it — and wouldn’t have rated him as the number one O-6 in her command.  Instead, Col Goodwin said

“I can’t say enough about Bo,” said Col. Kristin Goodwin, 2nd BW commander. “I see him as a leader, a father and a husband, going out every single day and trying to make a difference in the world. Not only does he make that difference, he does it with grace, style and even temperament. It’s really been an honor having him here, and I think we’ve all benefitted from his presence…”

He has such a compassionate heart and has touched so many lives,” Goodwin said. “I know he’s made me a better leader, and I believe he’ll continue to do so even after he leaves. Bo, we thank you.”

That hardly sounds like someone who unlawfully discriminates against homosexuals.

The Department of Defense explicitly — and repeatedly — said no one would have to change their views on homosexuality nor violate their religious beliefs merely because homosexuals were allowed to serve. Rather, everyone — on both sides of the aisle — would continue to demonstrate the respect expected of service members.

Yet, should this action stand, some may perceive the Air Force to have said, in essence, that every commanding officer must be willing to proactively affirm homosexual marriage. Not just tolerate, and not just ensure equality within policies and procedures, but personally affirm. In so doing, the Air Force may open itself to the accusation it has created a “religious test” for service as a commander in an Air Force unit.

If your religion will not allow you to affirm homosexuality, you are not allowed to be a commander.

To be sure, this isn’t a new issue — homosexuals have served openly for six years and side issues regarding commanders and homosexuals have come up before, though at much lower levels and with little fanfare.  But, as Col Bohannon’s situation makes clear, the military has never explicitly stipulated the policies under which such a conflict would be handled — except to generally say it wouldn’t be an issue.

In fact, not long after repeal, at least one Air Force commander breathed a sigh of relief that he managed to end his tour without having to deal with a similar issue — and even he foresaw the potential troubles should such a conflict occur.  It was only a matter of time.

What happened here was the confluence of a “motivated” homosexual Airman, a principled religious commander — both of whom apparently felt strongly enough to act on their beliefs — and a ceremony that required them to interact in a way that put those beliefs in conflict. Presumably, a similar situation has not occurred before because of the relatively unique demographic circumstance.

What should happen is obvious: An Air Force commander made a concerted effort to ensure a subordinate’s retirement was conducted in accordance with his wishes and Air Force policy, without violating his own sincerely held beliefs. The commander was successful in that effort. Adverse action against him was unwarranted and should be reversed.  (However, the First Liberty Institute letter appears to reference a prior appeal and a “decision” by BGen Paul Tibbets, so it seems an initial review has already denied such a reversal.)

What will happen is yet to be determined, and is unlikely to be so obvious: After all, the US military says it values religious freedom, tolerance, and diversity. But increasingly in society, sexuality trumps not just religion, but liberty in general.

Can a military commander be fired because he doesn’t proactively affirm the value of a homosexual relationship?

For now, it seems the US Air Force says yes.

Also at ChristianHeadlines.com, the AirForceForum, OneNewsNow, Family Research Council, and World News Group.  Later at the Stars and Stripes and KOAT.

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21 comments

  • Anonymous Imperial Patriot

    Air Force is losing a lot of honor , I see.

    The best fix would be a reinstatement of DADT, and holding all political opponents of it at gunpoint in order to ensure its reinstatement.

    My patriotic side is preventing me from supporting such a measure.

    But it should be clear to everyone that DADTs repeal was a huge mistake. It has not increased readiness, has caused more problems than it has solved, and is effeminizing the greatest fighting force in macrohistory.

  • Which legally recognized spouses should an air force officer be allowed to deny equal treatment to without censure?

    • @Donalbain, in what way was the spouse denied equal treatment? Did he leave empty-handed? Did he leave with an unsigned certificate? Did he leave with a certificate signed by the OOD instead of the Colonel (or better)? Or is your definition of “equality” that someone must do what you want, regardless of their beliefs? Would you respond differently had they granted this Colonel a religious accommodation?

    • Equal treatment was not denied. The spouse received the same certificate all other spouses receive.

  • The “benefit” wasn’t denied. Rather, the officer made sure it was provided by other means, which allowed both to get what was due. In a sane society, that would suffice.

    • If you sign a cert for every other spouse you should sign all. A letter of appreciation is just that, its not affirming anything about his lifestyle it saying thank you for supporting my valued airman…if you really knew how the cert came about being signed you may feel differently but OK…

  • Love the idea of a strong military. Retired USAF, myself. Served with our brothers in the Army. But, I have difficulty and reservation about suggesting my children serve our nation for a while, by becoming a part of an organization that will crucify them, if they don’t follow the PC Community in to battle; I’m not talking about the Battlefield, I’m speaking of the PC Battlefield. The last eight years of ROEs that were just plain stupid. And, the “softening” and “mellowing”of our services by a CINC who knew about as much about our military, war and power-projection as Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi or Haile Selassie; who wore military uniforms because they looked “cool”. Worrisome. Actually, those three probably knew more…..though they were just as ineffective.

    • @Daniel Chessman
      The question of “would I recommend military service to my children” is complicated. In the end, though, we must serve within the world to influence it — but we must understand and count the cost.

  • Michelle (non military)

    Our military is topsy turvy and it’s sickening. There is no such thing as male – male spouses and female – female spouses. Whether one believes that is true is irrelevant. That’s not hate speech or overused “phobia.” I do not fear homosexuals. In cases like these, I fear what/whom is behind them.

    What I’d like to know is why it took so long for an answer for Cmdr. Bohannon to get any answer to his request — which never came. He worked within the rules. He has a right to his beliefs. And isn’t such a letter optional?

  • “Diversity and Inclusion” has a good foundation until it camouflages perversity and delusion. We all are bound to the law of harvest. Endorsement of unnatural behavior can only yield unnatural outcome. I speak with love for all as the outcome will affect all.

    • Unnatural behaviour? Like using boxes of quantum mechanics to talk to people all over the world using lasers?

  • William Boudreau

    Wow this Col. is being railroaded ! what the hell about his right to religion ?
    Wake up Air force !

  • WOW!!! I think the action taken against Col Bohannon speaks volumes about the character of Lt Gen Rock who appears to be cowering to PC. I guess the need for a fourth star trumps religious freedom. Way to stand in there General for the rights of all.

  • If “sexual orientation” makes sexual preferance an option, then what is sexual disorientation? If an orientation is real, then a disorientation must also apply. I do not negate the reality of same gender attraction, nor discriminate the same. If there is a problem, we must solve it with honest understanding.

  • I agree with JudgeNot. The certificate is to recognize the spouse supporting the military member; it is not affirming the marriage. It was a work thing and not a religious thing. I would not want him for a Commander or in a position of authority over others, who because of his religion could be using his biased ideas against others in same sex relationships and preventing them opportunties they deserved. Also, he went against the AFI.

    • @soesterberg

      recognize the spouse…not affirming the marriage

      How does one recognize a spouse without affirming a marriage?

      Generally, the military does not give certificates to girlfriends, fiancés, or “significant others” — only to the one to whom the military member is married. If the military wants to recognize homosexual marriages, fine, they can do so. But to force a member of the military to recognize them — which they would do by requiring them to affix a personal signature to such a document — would put the military in the position of requiring a certain (religious) viewpoint. It is the opinion of some that is impermissible.

  • Bo, Stand firm in your beliefs as you have. A weak system is testing you. The nation and our military is being tested. Hopefully the checks and balances in our systems make better sense of this situation than currently prevails. Appeals continue. Let your friends know what we can do to help. It sometimes feels lonely and frustrating when systems seem to be working against you.

  • Col Bohannan and I are friends. He agonized over his decision not to sign the certficate and prayed to God for His guidance. He did exactly what God directed. The Air Force has been my life as it has been Col Bohannan’s professional life. His Christian Life is first, just as it should be, and that should be honored.

  • This affair is another absurd attack, not only on Col. Bohannon, but on the ability of all Christians whose choose to live in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
    Col. Bohannon sought counsel from many sources including USAF JAG before taking the course of action he did. Point being: There was no discrimination involved.
    The “spouse” of the retiring service member received the requisite letter of appreciation, albeit with a signature other than Col. Bohannon’s. The Air Force acknowledged the “spouse’s” contribution to the retiring service member’s career and the Air Force. The spouse involved was treated no differently from any other retiring service member’s spouse. The letter of appreciation was received.
    This affair reflects poorly on the command structure of the Air Force and not Col. Bohannon. It would seem that the command structure is attempting to dictate that the freedoms associated with religious liberty should be dictated by and be in compliance with societal “norms”. The remedy to this is to admit an error was made and reinstate Col. Bohannon on the promotion list and remove all reference to this matter from his record.

  • The Air Force is part of our secular, godless government.
    Our country was the first one to be founded on completely secular principles without the need and rules of any gods.
    I’m glad to see that the wall of separation between government and religion is holding STRONG.
    Especially when religious beliefs are being used to discriminate.

    I don’t think this person should’ve been fired. A reprimand and a copy of our Constitution should have been enough.

    • James MacGillivray

      The Constitution’s “principles” stand on the foundation of the Declaration Of Independence, which states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Note that the truths are endowed by their Creator. The establishment of this government was hardly established by a secular foundation. It is the diabolical deception of corrupt mankind to have cleverly substituted the word “from’ for the word “of” in describing the relationship between government and religion. “Therefore, our government failed to “secure these rights,” specifically the Liberty for each citizen to practice their religion without interference from the government.

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