Conservative groups deliver petition supporting Air Force colonel suspended over belief on marriage

Over 77,000 have signed a petition in support of an Air Force colonel who was suspended for not supporting same-sex marriage. | Pixabay/Military_Material

The Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA) delivered a petition with over 77,000 signatures to the Pentagon in support of an Air Force colonel who was suspended for not supporting same-sex marriage.

U.S. Air Force officials suspended Col. Leland B.H. Bohannon after a retiring subordinate filed a discrimination complaint because he refused to sign a letter affirming the airman's same-sex marriage.

The petition, delivered to the Pentagon on Wednesday, urges Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to fully reverse the complaint against Bohannon and remove any indication of it from his record, according to a news release.

"Like a lot of service members, Colonel Bohannon had reason to be encouraged when President Trump signed the executive order protecting religious freedom. But that same May, he found out the hard way that not everyone in the military had gotten the memo," Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, FRC's executive vice president, said after delivering the petition.

"Instead of encouraging faith, Air Force officials were continuing the Obama policy of punishing it. But now, over 77,000 Americans have joined together in this petition to say they will not stand for service members being punished and driven out simply for living in accordance with their religious beliefs," he added.

The incident reportedly occurred in May at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico where Bohannon had served as the Air Force Inspection Agency commander.

The Baptist Press reported in October that Bohannon had signed all the requisite documents for the retiring service member's May retirement ceremony except for the certificate of "spousal appreciation" for the gay airman's partner. The colonel had sought a religious accommodation, saying he could not sign the letter because of his Christian convictions about marriage.

Although the certificate is an unofficial document and is not legally required to be given, the retiring airman filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity office, alleging that Bohannon had discriminated against him based on his sexual orientation.

Bohannon was suspended after an investigation substantiated the airman's claim and found the colonel guilty of unlawful discrimination. The E.O. investigator had insisted that even if the religious accommodation had been granted to Bohannon, he would still be guilty of discriminating against the airman.

In addition to his suspension, the Air Force also revoked Bohannon's recommendation for promotion to brigadier general.

The First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty law firm representing Bohannon, is urging the Air Force to reverse its decision, arguing that the military violated the colonel's Constitutional rights.