Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

U.S. Navy Sinks Same-Sex Wedding Plans

The United States Navy has reversed course and rescinded a plan to allow military chaplains to marry same-sex couples on bases. According to Raw Story, Chief of Chaplains Rear Admiral Mark Tidd had released an April 13 memo in which he announced that same-sex weddings would be allowed “under certain circumstances” once the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) ban on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals serving openly in the US military was lifted.

The Tidd memo said:

“Consistent with the tenets of his or her religious organization, a chaplain may officiate a same-sex, civil marriage: if it is conducted in accordance with a state that permits same-sex marriage or union; and if that chaplain is, according to the applicable state and local laws, otherwise fully certified to officiate that state’s marriages.”

According to the Christian Science Monitor, some members of Congress complained that such marriages would violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for all purposes of all federal laws. Some 63 members of the US House of Representatives wrote a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, in which they wrote:

“We find it unconscionable that the United States Navy, a federal entity sworn to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, believes it is their place alone to train and direct service members to violate federal law…

“We find it difficult to understand how the military is somehow exempt from abiding by federal law. Not only does this document imply recognition and support of same-sex marriage in opposition to DOMA, but it also implies that the Navy will now perform these marriages as long as they do not violate state statutes. Offering up federal facilities and federal employees for same-sex marriages violates DOMA, which is still the law of the land and binds our military, including chaplains. The Administration and various states may be operating as if DOMA doesn’t exist, but the Navy and Marine Corps and all the Armed Services are sworn to obey the law, which this new instruction violates.”

In response, Tidd updated his memo. “My memorandum of 13 April 2011 is hereby suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and inter-Departmental coordination.”

Raw Story reports that an “unnamed military official” said that same-sex couples will eventually be allowed to marry in military chapels once DADT is fully repealed. President Obama signed a bill repealing the discriminatory policy last December, but due to procedural issues the measure will remain in effect for a while longer.

Since heterosexual marriages are performed on military bases, it would seem to be discriminatory to prohibit same-sex weddings on bases once DADT is fully repealed. But the military might not see it that way, with Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan telling the Washington Post that military lawyers would decide if each of the service branches would be permitted to set their own same-sex marriage policies.

Expect more controversy ahead.


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