Is it still fraternization if the couple marries?

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There are only approximately 24 women in the Marine Corps infantry. And soon there will be one less– as soon as her expected administrative separation is complete. 

Recently, a former sergeant with a good record pleaded guilty to fraternization for having a relationship with a subordinate in her unit—a man who became her husband. 

She could have needed a court-martial defense attorney, but reportedly accepted a plea agreement after her commanding officer recommended she face trial on charges of fraternization as well as adultery and larceny. That recommendation surprised some people–especially as it came after a pre-trial hearing officer had reportedly found no probable cause for the latter two charges and recommended only administrative punishment for fraternization. 

The possibility of a conviction may have led to the guilty plea. Some may speculate that the hard stance is warranted to avoid the appearance of giving one of the very few existing female infantry members “a pass”. Others may feel the punishment is unduly harsh and may have stemmed from the Marine Corps initial resistance to allowing females in the infantry when the opportunity was opened to them just a few years ago.

While her defense attorney feels “a general discharge seems more appropriate in this case”, the Corporal could still face an Under-Other-Than-Honorable discharge in her administrative separation from the Marines. 
There are three characterizations of administrative separation: 

  • Honorable
  • General under honorable conditions and
  • Under other than honorable conditions.

Each discharge characterization impacts what, if any, veterans benefits the servicemember will be able to access after returning to civilian life. In addition, anything other than an honorable discharge may carry a stigma and impact a former service member’s ability to get a civilian job or to be accepted to a college or graduate school program.

If you are, or believe you might be, facing a military court-martial or any allegations of misconduct, the civilian military defense attorneys at Elkus, Sisson & Rosenstein, P.C. can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

From our offices in Colorado Springs and Denver Colorado, we represent service members in all branches, of all ranks, active or retired, anywhere in the world. 

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