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New bill in Congress aims to prohibit gay weddings on military bases

Sunday, January 29, 2012
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WASHINGTON — A Republican lawmaker from Kansas has introduced new legislation in the U.S. House aimed at prohibiting gay and lesbian service members from marrying on U.S. military bases, and would require new regulations related to chaplains and other military personnel.

Tim Huelskamp

U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) is sponsoring the bill, H.R. 3828, which stipulates that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” cannot be used to permit gay weddings on military bases, or force chaplains to do anything against their beliefs, including marrying gay partners.

According to Huelskamp’s bill:

“A military chaplain shall not be directed, ordered, or required to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain or contrary to the moral principles or religious beliefs of the chaplain’s faith group.”

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“A military installation or other property owned, rented, or otherwise under the jurisdiction or control of the Department of Defense shall not be used to officiate, solemnize, or perform a marriage or marriage-like ceremony involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman.”

Huelskamp’s bill aims to override previous Defense Department guidance that permits, but does not obligate, military chaplains to perform same-sex ceremonies, including on military installations, where permitted under state law.

According to a memorandum issued Sept. 30, 2011, following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford L. Stanley, said that military chaplains “may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law.”

“Further, a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs,” Stanley wrote.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director, Army Veteran Aubrey Sarvis, blasted the bill, calling it “another round of resistance tactics that have already been rejected by Congress and the American people.”

“There is no need for the so-called ‘protections’ in this bill or the proposed regulations,” Sarvis said, in a statement. “No chaplain today is being required or pressured to marry anyone, straight or gay. Period.”

“The bill’s ban on use of military facilities and chaplains officiating at ceremonies for gay and lesbian service members is nothing more than plain, old-fashion discrimination. There is no place for that prejudice in our armed forces or in our country,” said Sarvis.

Huelskamp said his bill — the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act — will ensure military facilities “are not used in contravention to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which states that marriage is between one man and one woman only.”

“Military installations exist to carry out the national defense of our nation, not to facilitate a narrow social agenda,” Huelskamp said.

The bill has been referred to the House Armed Services.

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