Facing a firestorm, Navy reverses course on performing same-sex marriages
The chief of Navy chaplains had said same-sex marriages could be performed in military chapels as soon as 'don't ask, don't tell' ends. But a sharply critical response has put that on hold.
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In a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, 63 House members wrote: “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.”Skip to next paragraph
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“We find it difficult to understand how the military is somehow exempt from abiding by federal law,” they wrote. “Not only does this document imply recognition and support of same-sex marriage in opposition to DOMA, but it also implies that the Navy will now perform these marriages as long as they do not violate state statutes. Offering up federal facilities and federal employees for same-sex marriages violates DOMA, which is still the law of the land and binds our military, including chaplains. The Administration and various states may be operating as if DOMA doesn’t exist, but the Navy and Marine Corps and all the Armed Services are sworn to obey the law, which this new instruction violates.”
The issue is expected to become part of the debate over the defense spending bill.
Gay rights groups vowed to keep up the fight.
“Hopefully, the matter will be reviewed again by calmer heads with a focus on the law, not on the irrational fears of opponents who want to interject the gay marriage debate into the defense spending bill where it does not belong,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told the Washington Blade, a leading gay news source. “SLDN stands by its earlier analysis that the Navy’s guidance was both ‘prudent and correct’ and no chaplain is being forced to marry anyone on or off base.”
This week’s flap does nothing politically positive for President Obama.
The administration announced in February that it would no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in cases pending in federal court. And its effort to end don’t ask, don’t tell pleases neither conservatives nor – because of its deliberately slow pace – gay rights advocates.