There are many military spouses who may be hesitant to get involved in anything “too political” for fear of hurting their service member’s career. After all, aren’t there rules in the military about not doing that sort of thing?
The short answer is: there really aren’t. While your service member has to abide by the Hatch Act and DoD Directive 1344.10 — the rules dictating political activities in the military — if you are a civilian spouse, you do not. You are your own person, free to be as outspoken as you choose.
Don’t believe me? We thought it might be a good idea to spell out what rules do and do not exist. Your choice about becoming an advocate should be informed, not from fear.
As a member of the military community, remember you CANNOT:
- Do anything political while in uniform. This only applies to service members, of course — if you’re a civilian spouse, you’re in the clear!
- Conduct “partisan political activities” on base. So if you want to host a candidate fundraiser, or organize a phone bank for a campaign, make sure it’s off-base.
- Display any partisan political signage (like candidate yard signs) on your house if you live in military installation housing.
- Same goes for any vehicle your service member may drive — no signage larger than a bumper sticker.
- Ask for political money under an email account or social media profile that you share with your service member.
All of these rules really come down to one focus point: Do not do anything that gives the impression that a candidate or cause is endorsed by the U.S. Armed Forces.
That’s not too bad, right? Just think of all the things this means you CAN do as a military spouse:
- Attend political events in civilian clothes.
- Put a bumper sticker on your car.
- Canvass off base.
- Invite your friends to canvass with you.
- Sign a petition to place a candidate’s name on the ballot.
- Join a political club.
- Tell voters you’re a military spouse.
- Donate to a political campaign.
- Ask others to donate to a political campaign.
- Get paid to work for a political campaign.
- Run for office yourself!*
- Wear a T-shirt with a presidential slogan.
- Get a tattoo of a presidential candidate’s face on the middle of your back.
(Ok, maybe that last once isn’t advisable…but you wouldn’t be the first person to do it…)
Remember — your beliefs, your opinions, your extracurricular activities are yours and yours alone. Anyone who tells you otherwise can speak with the ACLU.
P.S. If you are a mil spouse running for office, there are additional rules that apply to your campaign operations. Our partners at Homefront Rising would love to help you navigate those.
Note: This article was updated on 6/8/20 to reflect updated guidance. The previous version stated that yard signs were not permitted on private, off-installation housing, but they are.