A group of U.S. senators have signed a letter in support of an officer who says he was wrongly disciplined after refusing to sign a certificate of appreciation to the same-sex spouse of a retiring master sergeant.
Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Roy Blunt of Missouri are among the Republican senators who sent the letter to the Air Force secretary earlier this month in support of Air Force Colonel Leland Bohannon, the Albuquerque Journal reported .
Last May, Bohannon was asked to sign off on a series of documents for the retiring sergeant as part of a customary but optional certificate of appreciation. Bohannon cited his religious beliefs about marriage for not signing it. He asked for a religious exemption. When that did not come through, he arranged for another officer to sign the certificate.
The retiring officer filed an equal opportunity complaint against Bohannon, accusing him of discrimination based on sexual orientation. As a result, Bohannon was relieved of his command of the inspection agency at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
The senators' letter, dated November 13, calls for Bohannon's discipline to be reversed.
"During your own confirmation process, you made it a point to acknowledge that 'Air Force commanders have a responsibility to ensure that the spiritual needs of all airmen are met,' '' the letter states. "We were highly encouraged by your answers and trusted that, when the time came, you would follow through. That time is now.''
The letter also called for more formal guidance and training for Air Force leadership on religious rights. Other senators who put their name on the letter were John Kennedy of Louisiana, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Mike Lee of Utah and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
The Family Research Council has also thrown its support behind Bohannon. The conservative Christina nonprofit began circulating an online petition two weeks ago calling for a reversal of the disciplinary action taken. As of Wednesday, it had garnered 24,000 signatures.