U.S. Air Force Col. Leland Bohannon was suspended this year from command and won’t be promoted to one-star general after he refused to sign off on a certificate of spouse appreciation for a retiring master sergeant’s same-sex spouse, and a group of at least eight Republican senators are asking the Air Force to reconsider its decision.
The case came to light when the retiring master sergeant took offense after Bohannon asked a higher-ranking officer to sign the certificate instead. The master sergeant filed an Equal Opportunity (EO) complaint, which was reportedly legitimized by investigators, who claim Bohannon unlawfully discriminated against the master sergeant.
“Col. Bohannon has suffered severely on account of the EO investigator’s mishandling of his religious liberty rights,” the senators wrote, according to Fox News. “The Air Force owes it to him to see that justice is restored, along with his good name.”
The Republican senators who signed off on the letter, addressed to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, include Roy Blunt of Missouri, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Kennedy of Louisiana, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Ted Cruz of Texas.
“Col. Bohannon recognized the moral and legal dilemma this situation presented, and to his credit, sought to carve out a solution that would affirm the contribution made by the retiring officer’s same-sex partner while at the same time allowing the colonel to abide by his religious convictions,” the senators wrote, Fox reported. “The Air Force’s refusal to accept this compromise and its refusal to grant an accommodation – when doing so would cause no discernable harm – raises the question as to which circumstances, if any, would move the U.S. Air Force to defend the free exercise rights of its soldiers.”
The senators are asking Wilson to intervene, reverse the decision and clear Bohannon’s record.
Bohannon was about to be promoted to a one-star general at the time of the incident.
First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty law firm, is representing Bohannon in the case.