by Pam Zubeck
The Associated Press reported today that more than five dozen House lawmakers pressured the Navy late Tuesday to reverse a decision that would have allowed chaplains to perform same-sex unions if the Pentagon decides to recognize openly gay military service later this year.
The AP reports:
In a one-sentence memo obtained by The Associated Press, Rear Adm. Mark Tidd, chief of Navy chaplains, said his earlier decision has been "suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination."
The Navy said its lawyers wanted to do a more thorough review of the legal decision that allowed Navy chaplains to receive training to perform civil unions on military bases, but only in states where same-sex unions are legal.
Military training to apply the new law allowing gays to serve openly began earlier this year and is expected to be completed by midsummer.
House members wrote to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (PDF) to object to the Navy's initial ruling, saying the service was violating the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act by appearing to recognize and support same-sex marriages.
That law defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, and it also says states don't have to recognize gay marriages performed in other states where they are legal.
"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," said the lawmakers' letter, which was signed by 63 House members.
————— ORIGINAL POST, TUESDAY, MAY 10, 1:07 P.M.————-
James Dobson, take a Valium. And prepare to hear some shocking news.
Mother Jones website is reporting that the Navy is willing to perform same-sex marriages. This news is sure to stir a lot of discussion and cries of foul by the right-wing Republicans, who see same-sex marriage as the end of civilization as we know it. But let's let Mother Jones's Adam Weinstein tell it:
The military establishment, it appears, is willing to drag congressional Republicans kicking and screaming into the post-Don't Ask, Don't Tell era. The US Navy has authorized its chaplains to perform same-sex marriages on military bases in states that legally recognize such unions. That news came in a memo from the service's head chaplain (PDF), dated April 13:
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...if the base is located in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, then base facilities may normally be used to celebrate the marriage. This is true for purely religious services (e.g., a chaplain blessing a union) or a traditional wedding (e.g., a chaplain both blessing and conducting the ceremony).
The policy's unlikely to have a significant impact on gay or military communities: There's no naval base, for example, in Iowa, one of five states (along with the District of Columbia) that recognize same-sex marriages. And until the DADT repeal is certified by the Pentagon, no service members are likely to be hitching up at the Washington Navy Yard. Not only that, chaplains who disagree with gay marriage on theological grounds are under no obligation to perform the ceremonies, which shrinks the pool of willing wedding officiators to virtually nil.
But there's symbolic power in the policy change — enough to get a rise out of social conservatives. "This new guidance from the Navy clearly violates the law," said Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and has no problem citing chapter and verse of the Defense of Marriage Act, even as he stumbles over the Pledge of Allegiance and says the Thanksgiving pilgrims fought "unbiblical" socialism. "While our president may not like this law, it is unbelievable that our Navy would issue guidance that clearly violates this law. While a state may legalize same-sex marriage, federal property and federal employees, like Navy chaplains, should not be used to perform marriages that are not recognized by federal law."
Another House Armed Services Republican, Duncan Hunter of California, called the Navy's move a "good example of the type of uncertainty and confusion created in the rush to change the previous policy." Mind you, Hunter was less conflicted about advocating a confusing change in policy last year, when he called for the summary deportation of children born in the US to undocumented immigrants.
"You can look and say, 'You're a mean guy. That's a mean thing to do. That's not a humanitarian thing to do,'" he said back then.
It's a talking point he and his GOP cohorts may find themselves repeating quite a bit on gay rights, as well.
Adam Weinstein is Mother Jones' copy editor. For more of his stories, click here or follow him on Twitter. Get Adam Weinstein's RSS feed.