Lesbian Marine Marries a Man, Lives With Girlfriend, Might Go to Prison For It

For a lesbian Marine who wants to marry her girlfriend, options are pretty limited, given that same-sex marriage isn’t federally recognized and they still aren’t even allowed to be honest about their relationship at their place of work. So when Marine Cpl. Ashley Vice decided she wanted to marry her girlfriend and live off-base with her, but didn’t have the money, she thought of another option. Vice talked with Marine Jeremiah Griffin, and they agreed to marry legally so that Vice could take the $1,200 monthly stipend awarded to heterosexual married Marines and use it to live away from the base with her girlfriend, Jaime Murphy.

This arrangement seems to have worked out fine for a year and a half, at which point Murphy also legally married a male Marine, Joseph Garner.

It’s unclear whether an investigation was related to the second marriage or not, but Vice began to be questioned about her living arrangements by the Marine Corps – she was married and living off-base, but with someone besides the person she was legally married to, and who was in fact now married to someone else.

“I honestly didn’t even try to hide it,” [Vice] said. “I just said this is what’s going on. They asked me who Jaime is … I told them.” …”There’s no conspiracy here,” Murphy told KGTV. “There’s no trying to steal from anybody. We just wanted to be together and she wanted to serve her country.”

The charges now levied against the three marines (Vice, Griffin, and Garner – Murphy is a civilian) include conspiracy, making false official statements, fraud and adultery; they are accused of illegally making claim to about $75,000. They will face at least a year of military prison if convicted.

The Marine Corps says that these women’s sexual orientations have nothing to do with the punishment for their crime – “Regardless of sexual preference, we will hold all Marines accountable to the same standards,” says 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley, Marine spokeswoman for Camp Pendleton.

But of course, the Marines aren’t accountable to the same standards when it comes to sexual orientation. Even if a DADT repeal were in full effect, which it’s not, the fact that DOMA’s still in effect means that gay Marines still wouldn’t be able to access this fairly enormous stipend to live with their partners. That doesn’t mean that Vice and Murphy’s system was necessarily the appropriate response, but not even the Marine Corps administration seems like they’re trying to deny that there was a real inequality in place that Vice was responding to. Another interesting point – although coverage of this story has been sparse, so far no one has mentioned Vice being discharged under DADT. All three Marines face the possibility of a dishonorable discharge, reduction of rank and forfeiture of pay, but that seems to only be as a result of this particular action.

If nothing else, it raises more questions about what  a post-DADT world will look like. A repeal would mandate that both asking and telling be allowed without repercussions, but does that also imply the creation of an infrastructure that would give couples like Vice and Murphy a similar level of support from the military as straight couples? If so, how far can that support system really go before it comes up against the lack thereof in the civilian world – like the fact that even outside the military, gay couples are denied the same social and financial benefits as married couples? It’s a confusing situation to be sure, and it’s likely that any answers will be slow in coming. While some originally reported that a DADT repeal would be in effect by midsummer, that doesn’t quite seem to have happened yet, and while progress is being made on DOMA, it’s anyone’s guess as to when that will really change. For now, all we know are that three Marines, one civilian, and the Marine Corps’ budget are the worse for it.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. This is so fucked up! Of course it has everything to do with her sexual orientation. People marry for all kinds of reasons and money must be one of the most common ones. If she were straight and living with another man, I doubt she would have faced an investigation and the possibility of going to jail for not living/fucking with her husband.

    • Actually, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) prohibits married people from having sex with people they’re not married to, so she might have been subjected to the same investigation and brought up under the same charges. In fact, as an active duty servicemember, I have seen this happen.

        • No, not if neither party is married. I’m not sure how the rules would be applied if the military member is single and having sex with a married civilian though.

  2. I have a straight friend who is legally married to her childhood friend who serves in the army for this very reason. They live several states apart and they do it to collect the increased monthly pay (and split it 50-50). Maybe there just shouldn’t be bonuses for married couples? I don’t know of other jobs that provide this kind of incentive to get married. Does anyone else? Or does anyone know why they offer this cash reward of sorts for getting married?

    • It’s not a bonus for being married. The marines were originally quartered on base, which means the government was giving them free housing. By getting married, they were approved to live off base, and given the housing allowance. The marines could have just waited until they attained the appropriate rank, and moved off with their own housing allowance. She could have “ghosted” the dorms, and lived with her girlfriend without the monthly allowance. Plenty of young hetero troops who have done this same thing have gotten the exact same punishment. This is not a homo witch hunt. Believe me, i’ve done the investigating.

  3. QUESTION: The Marines care about any of this because…?

    I mean, in my homo rage I’m pretty sure they care because those terrorist lesbians found a way to get around a rule that’s supposed to keep homos quiet and invisible. But why do the people persecuting think they care? I’m pretty sure they’re not thinking, “haha I love oppressing homos.” What are they telling themselves? How do they justify charging them with ADULTERY? Why do they care enough to call fraud? It is fraud, yes, but our legal system doesn’t uniformly enforce laws; we enforce laws when we feel like it. Why do they think they feel like it?

    These aren’t rhetorical questions. I really want to be able to see this from another perspective because all I can see from my own perspective is RAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH.

    • 1. yes. true. 2. is adultery really an actual thing you can be charged with? like is that on the books? seriously? do you get stoned for it? that seems so old-fashioned.

      • In the UK at least, adultery as a legal term specifically means sleeping with someone of the opposite gender. If you were to cheat on a partner with someone of the same gender, you’d have to cite “unreasonable behaviour” as the reason for wanting a divorce, not “adultery”.

        It’s somewhat mind-boggling. Not sure whether the same legal definition applies in the US…

        • … that really shocks me. Australia has a no-fault divorce system, I think this is much more sensible than a grounds-type approach.

      • I’m not sure how adultery fits into the legal system outside of citing it for divorce, but the military is held to a stricter set of standards than civilians. It’s quite possible that if they got married, each accepted money for the marriage, then committed adultery (betraying the marriage, I’m assuming?), then, in the legal sense, they did something wrong.

        The law takes feelings/hopes/dreams out of it. If it didn’t involve money, they’d probably let these ladies be.
        This wouldn’t even be a problem if they could just marry each other…
        Anybody see a solution to this?

  4. This makes me CRAZY because REALLY how exactly is one supposed to participate in DADT if not through things like this? Aren’t they doing a good job of not asking or telling? Isn’t that what everyone wants? The marines need to make up their minds — either hide your gay life from everyone and everything related to your job, or don’t. These people were just following the rules, more or less, and I guess we’ll see which rules trump which other rules.

  5. It’s not an incentive to get married, Merin.

    If I’m reading it correctly, they’re referring to Basic Housing Allowance (BAH). It’s not a bonus, it’s an allotment. How much you get is determined by your duty location, pay grade, and dependency status. If you have dependents (are married), you get more money.

    Some people get married to cheat the system. I’ve seen straight “couples” get masted (NJP) with the same charges, so I think this is a case of When The Homogays Got Caught.

    This is why most branches won’t let you move off base until you’re an E-5 – they know you’re probably not financially stable enough to do so. They stick your ass in the barracks until you grow up a bit and are getting a better paycheck. The exception to this is if you get married, which I’m assuming is how things went down in this story. She could have waited to make rank, moved off base, and avoided all of this.

    They knew it was fraud, they took the risk, and now life sucks hardcore. Don’t get me wrong, I want to move in with a ladyfriend one day, but there are ways to go about it that aren’t illegal. I hate playing devil’s advocate on the military stuff all the time, you guys…but…I just did…so there you go.

    • thanks for this.
      I don’t really think it has much to do with their sexual orientations in this particular case. Fraud is fraud.

      • It just sucks that her sexual orientation was the motivation for the fraud. Like stated above, if the same rights were given to same-sex couples, she wouldn’t have resorted to fraud to enjoy the same benefits. You can’t remove one from the other.

        • I agree with you, prolittering. It was obviously illegal and obviously wrong, but like Paper0Flowers said, it is a symptom of a bigger problem that really does need to be addressed: discrimination. And I know we’re working on it, and not just in the military, but then I see things like this and I think, CHANGE CANNOT COME FAST ENOUGH. Because playing a waiting game is hurting people. Not having equal rights means legal proceedings, deportation, loss of property, not getting healthcare, not seeing the person you love when they’re sick… the litany is endless. And the clock is ticking.

          • I agree with you and Paper0Flowers as well. Though I do think money was the core “motivation” for this particular incident, I know that if we had rights like straight couples do, it wouldn’t have been an issue in the first place. Shit is fucked up, and we all know it needs to change – the sooner, the better.

            I also stand by the fact that we all enlisted/were commissioned knowing what we would be subject to. I know it’s not fair. It sucks. I’ve had my own pity-parties about it when I was younger. I understand that people find love at inopportune times (there’s never really a good time to fall in love I guess), and that usually makes things harder..but life isn’t fair, goddammit, and if I could hug everyone and make it better I would.

          • p.s. I am decorating my laptop with rainbow star stickers as we type. And that makes me happy again. Now if only we could present my newly star-studded as “fabulous” evidence in a court case…

  6. This is so not shocking. My girlfriend is in the military and she is not allowed to live officially off post because she is not an E6 (Staff Sergeant). Because she is in a very small field, she will probably not make E6 for at least five or six years. (She just got promoted to E5 after two years of service.)
    All of our friends in the military are married straight people. They get an extra 1300 a month (that’s with no children) for “housing expenses,” or BAH (basic allowance for housing) to live off post with their straight spouses. My GF lives with me and pays part of our rent out of her base pay. We struggle to pay bills sometimes, and our straight friends are supportive of us, but they don’t really understand how much better they have it financially because they are not gay.

    My girlfriend and I have talked about the possibility of me getting married to one of our single military guy friends just so I can get some health benefits, let alone the extra housing money he would be eligible for. The only thing that stops me is that I, as a civilian, don’t want to screw someone’s career and create a horrible situation for everyone if it came out.

    Legally, what they did was wrong, yes. But was it morally wrong? HELL NO. The system is unjust and biased.

    The military should not be surprised if people do this. And yes, sexual orientation has everything to do with it. Those girls would never have “defrauded” the government if they had been straight. They wouldn’t have needed to.

    • Exactly my thoughts. There is a serious inequality here that needs to be addressed.

    • Heather, I’m confused. When you say your straight military friends are married & getting $ for housing expenses – are they E6 or higher or are they also E5 like your girlfriend. Wait, is it like this – if you’re straight & married no matter what your rank then you can move off base and get housing allowance? I’m just trying to understand.

      • Yes. If you are straight and married, no matter what rank you are, including E1 (the lowest ranking private) you get off post housing and extra benefits. (Although if you are an E1, you get less than 1300 a month, probably more like 1000 or something.)

    • Bottom Line – Thet committed fraud & they fall under the jurisdiction of the USMJ. Until DOMA is changed, even if gay military members marry, it will not be acknowledged as a legal marriage.
      “The Defense of Marriage Act (Pub.L. 104-199, 110 Stat. 2419, enacted September 21, 1996, 1 U.S.C. § 7 and 28 U.S.C. § 1738C) is a United States federal law signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996 whereby the federal government defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. Under the law, also known as DOMA, no state (or other political subdivision within the United States) may be required to recognize as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered a marriage in another state.”

  7. Omg this reminds me of the time when my friends in the Air Force married each other (gay boy and gay girl) in order to take off the heat from them attending SF Pride one year and the threats of ensuing investigation of homosexual conduct. I’m sure the monthly stipend had something to do with it too.

  8. So the fraud here is related to the fact that they are gay, right? The fraud is that, no, the married couples aren’t in love or having sex or living together. I know very little about how the Marines work or what their policies/rules are, but how is this anyone’s business?

  9. It’s not often that I completely disagree with anything written here, but I really think the representation that she is being persecuted because she is living with her girlfriend is a bit misleading. She commited fraud. Plain and simple. She married someone to gain acess to funds for which she would not have been eligible. I am not a fan of using the fact that she is a Lesbian as an excuse for an act of fraud.

    • It’s true that what she was wrong, but it is also a very valid point that she would not have found it necessary to break the law if she could get the housing/marriage allowance with her girlfriend in the first place. So while I can’t totally condone this, because technically she had a choice, I am still VERY angry with the system that did not provide her the legal option she is entitled to.

      Plain and simple, if she could have married the gf, she would have and no laws would have been broken.

  10. All other things aside, now the Marines (and the military in general) are not only telling you who to marry, but how that marriage should look, too? What if the spouses lived in separate cities..or countries, they still would be allowed to live off base. And if they did live separately, they could each get a roommate to share expenses. So even though the marriages are a ‘sham’ (that’s the term used when I was in a marriage of convenience in the Army in the 70’s) by conventional standards they still could be plausibly explained..except for the fact that neither of the husbands lived with their wives in the same town in this case. Regardless of the motivation for breaking the rules, they broke the rules and when that happens you have to pay the consequences. This is not the last you will hear of these marriages as DADT is finally repealed.

  11. Fraud’s fraud. Unfortunate, but end of story. What I find so odd is that there’s a US military law against having sex outside marriage! Shouldn’t people be telling the military to get the hell away from their private lives?

    • I think the law that forbids people from having sex outside of marriage is totally bizarre as well. So if DADT is repealed, is the military going to have to legally define what constitutes sex between gay men and lesbian women?

      • Good luck to the military with that! If you ask 10 lesbians to define sex you get 25 answers, I’d love to see what their answer would be :-)

      • Actually, up until this year there was a sodomy law on the books, that would have made any gay sex, or for that matter, any straight sex outside of missionary, illegal under the UCMJ. That was repealed this year, so now everyone can do it however they please, as long as they’re unmarried, or doing it with their own spouse. Adultery law is still in place.

  12. Yes, she committed fraud, as many people have said. But would she have committed fraud if she had been afforded the same opportunities and benefits as her heterosexual counterparts? Unlikely.

    I think that the only really unfortunate thing she did was getting caught. It sounds like (from this article) that she was really indiscreet, even open, in how she talked about her situation.

    The fact is that even though DADT has been repealed, the repeal has not been placed into effect, meaning that this is a really gray area for anyone gay in the military right now. It means that lots of people think “Oh, yay! Gays can say what they want now, because that dumb law has been repealed.”
    THAT IS NOT TRUE. Not yet anyway. And high ranking officials have been pounding this into their troops heads since the repeal was signed. My girlfriend has gotten regular e-mails (they are sent to the whole unit, not just her) reminding soldiers that DADT is still in effect, and they can still be technically disciplined and discharged if they don’t follow the law.

    So for this marine to be so open about her situation was unwise. And even after the repeal goes into place, same sex partners will STILL not have the same benefits afforded to heterosexual partners.

    I guess my point is that if you are going to defraud the military because of their biased, ridiculous rules, then be discreet about it, stay in the closet, research the laws, and know the consequences of your actions.

  13. we did this shit all the time. shit, straight people do too. the only way to make enough money to survive is to get married, married couples get all of the benefits. i knew people that got married for childcare, or insurance, or just BAH. and gays did it for the same reasons. if they wanna crack down on fraudulent marriage, they need to go after everyone, not just homos. UCMJ doesnt say you have to marry for love. it does, however, go after “adultry” harshly if it becomes a problem. but it doesnt happen much.

    contract marriages are a thing. they need to accept it.

  14. Can you keep us updated on this story? Very interesting, and depending how aggressively they choose to pursue it, could have some pretty big ramifications.

  15. Pingback: I Received ‘Ex-Gay’ Therapy at Marcus Bachmann’s Clinic; House Passes Defense Bill That Slows DADT Repeal, Reaffirms Federal Gay Marriage Ban; Rhode Island Marriage Equality Groups Vow to Press On; and more… » DailyQueerNews.

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