Republicans to Challenge Navy Change Allowing Chaplains to Wed Gay Soldiers
House Republicans plan to introduce on Wednesday amendments to delay the actual repeal of the “don't ask, don't tell” policies. The move comes as a response to Navy training changes that would allow chaplains to officiate the same-sex marriages and civil union ceremonies of openly gay service members on U.S. Naval bases.
According to the Family Research Council, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and other House Republicans are expected to introduce at least two bills into the Armed Services Committee that would stall the certification needed to lift DADT restrictions by the end of the year.
One of the bills, to be introduced by Hunter, would prevent President Barack Obama from certifying the completion of post-DADT training until all the service chiefs have had a chance to testify about the certification process. A second would reinforce the traditional definition of marriage in the military.
FRC reports that a third bill may also be introduced to allow conscience exemptions – similar to those offered in the medical field – to protect service members who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds.
The bills were informed by Navy officials' decision to permit chaplains to officiate the marital ceremonies of gay service members once the military's ban on open homosexuality is completely lifted.
DADT was legislatively repealed last year. However, the ban remains in place to allow the military branches time to prepare for the change. Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley said in late January that he projects the repeal training and implementation to be completed within a year.
The chaplain training change with regards to gay marriage was announced in a memorandum signed by Navy head Chaplain Rear Admiral Mark Tidd. The memo reads, "Consistent with the tenets of his or her religious organization, a chaplain may officiate a same-sex, civil marriage."
Washington, D.C.-based FRC blasted the training change saying, "Call it what you will, but that's not a change to 'training' – that's a circumvention of U.S. law."
FRC charges that allowing a military base to wed openly gay soldiers on base violates the Defense of Marriage Act which governs all federal entities.
DOMA defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman for the sake of federal laws and benefits. DOMA also allows states to choose whether or not to legally recognize gay marriage.
Currently six jurisdictions – that of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. – allow same-sex couples to be joined in marriage.
The memo states that gay marriage ceremonies can only be performed in those six areas provided that the chaplain is, “according to the applicable state and local laws, otherwise fully certified to officiate that state's marriages."
The Human Rights Campaign has challenged FRC's statement, releasing one of their own: "Permitting chaplains to voluntary perform marriages between same-sex couples does not run afoul of the law in any way."
However, social conservatives say the change is meant to further undermine the federal enforcement of DOMA.
Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance said the move was meant to "further advance the radical homosexual lobby's intentions" to repeal DOMA and allow homosexuals to marry in all 50 states.
Of the 50 states, 31 states have passed referendums that protect traditional marriage; 29 states of those states now have laws defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
House Republicans are also leading the effort to protect DOMA after the Obama administration announced in February that it will no longer defend its constitutionality in court. They have hired Bush-era solicitor general Paul Clement to assert the constitutionality of the1996 federal law in future court cases.