The U.S. Air Force has decided to reverse the disciplinary actions against a colonel who was suspended after he refused to sign a certificate that would affirm the same-sex marriage of a retiring officer.
The Air Force Review Boards Agency announced on Monday that it has reversed the adverse actions against Col. Leland Bohannon, who was previously stripped of command of the Air Force Inspection Agency at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Bohannon was also expecting to be promoted to brigadier general, but he was reportedly removed from consideration for a promotion after he was found to be in violation of service regulations.
In a letter to Congress on Monday, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson conceded that Bohannon "had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate" against the serviceman when he refused to sign the certificate.
"The Air Force places a high value on the rights of its members to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all," she stated, as reported by Christian News Network.
Wilson noted that the Review Boards Agency has since agreed to adjust Bohannon's records accordingly.
Bohannon had declined to affix his signature to the spouse appreciation certificate in May, but he had willingly signed other documents for the retiring airman. The colonel argued that signing the certificate would "signify his personal endorsement of the same-sex marriage."
First Liberty Institute, which represented Bohannon, noted that the colonel applied for religious accommodation so that he would not have to sign the document. However, his request was returned "without action" and an Equal Opportunity complaint was filed against him, accusing him of unlawfully discriminating against the retiring airman.
Bohannon was subsequently suspended, prompting him to file an appeal in October. The colonel's lawyers argued in the appeal letter that he was not required to issue a spouse certificate.
"Moreover, the instruction does not require the commander to personally sign a certificate, should one be issued," attorney Michael Berry wrote, as reported by Christian News Network.
"Yet the MSgt's spouse nevertheless received a signed spouse certificate bearing the signature of a two-star general, far superior than one signed by Col. Bohannon," he continued.
Several members of Congress, including Southern Baptist senators Roy Blunt of Missouri, Ted Cruz of Texas and James Lankford of Oklahoma, had written a letter to Wilson in November to support Bohannon's appeal.
In a press release on Tuesday, First Liberty General Counsel Hiram Sasser hailed Wilson's decision to reinstate Bohannon.
"We are very pleased that Secretary Wilson protected the religious liberty of Col. Bohannon," Sasser said, according to Baptist Press.