WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill that would prohibit military chaplains from performing same-sex ceremonies and would prevent military installations from being used for such ceremonies.
The amendment, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), requires that no money spent on the military will be used to “contravene” the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.
King said a Sept. 2011 authorization by the Defense Department that said, “A military chaplain 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,” was “not just permission,” but that it “implied encouragement to conduct same-sex marriages on our military bases.”
Army veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said the language in King’s amendment offers nothing new, as federal funds can not be spent in contravention of federal law.
“With this amendment, the Congressman is wasting Congress’ time and energy by restating current law in an attempt to infringe upon the rights of chaplains to practice their own faith and relegate gay and lesbian service members to second-class status by restricting their use of military facilities,” said Sarvis.
“Clearly, Congressman King doesn’t understand what the Defense of Marriage Act actually does. It does not prohibit a chaplain from performing a same-sex ceremony that is consistent with the tenets of his or her faith, and it does not prevent the use of military facilities for private religious ceremonies.”
U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) called the amendment “discriminatory” and said it had no place in the appropriations bill.
“We should have a debate on the effects of DOMA on our service members and their families,” Dicks said, “but introducing this contentious and discriminatory amendment is not the place.”
The Defense Authorization Bill provides for the budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Republican-controlled House approved the amendment 247-166, and now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration.