News (USA)

Committee chairman vows to kill defense bill over policy on gay ceremonies

Committee chairman vows to kill defense bill over policy on gay ceremonies

WASHINGTON — House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, (R-Calif.) said he will oppose passage of the annual defense authorization bill unless it contains language prohibiting military chaplains from performing same-sex unions, and a provision that would ban terrorism suspects from getting civilian trials in federal courts.

Buck McKeon

Speaking on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” on Sunday, McKeon vowed he would rather see Congress fail to pass a defense authorization measure for the first time in 50 years, than compromise on those two issues.

“This was one of the concerns that we had — that we were rushing this, to eliminate this, before we had fully prepared things. And DOMA is the law of the land,” McKeon added, referencing the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that bans any federal recognition of gay marriage.

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced it would no longer defend DOMA in federal court after a federal judge ruled in 2010 that the law was unconstitutional. The Pentagon had announced Sept. 30, that the Chaplain Corps of the Armed Forces are authorized to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies after the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, but were not required to.

Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford L. Stanley in a memorandum 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. 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.”

McKeon’s comments could trigger another Congressional standoff with the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Senate’s version of the defense authorization bill — which has cleared the Senate Armed Services committee but not the full Senate — does not include the House provision on same-sex marriage.

“I’m hopeful that the Senate will look at those votes and will understand our feelings on this issue,” McKeon said on the same-sex marriage issue.

On the detainee trials, The Hill reports that the Senate measure currently allows civilian trials for terrorism detainees, if preferable for national security reasons. But McKeon noted that the government had already poured resources into setting up military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay.

“Why would we want to bring these terrorists that have done these kinds of things into the country and put us at more risk?” McKeon said. “To me, it doesn’t make sense.”

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