Amendment: No Same-Sex Marriages on Military Bases or by Chaplains

By Pete Winn | May 11, 2011 | 11:38 AM EDT

Bill Slimback, left, and Bob Sullivan of Whitehall, N.Y., exchange rings during their same-sex wedding ceremony in Waterbury, Vt., Sept. 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Andy Duback)

( - Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower, is introducing an amendment Wednesday designed to prohibit military chaplains from performing same-sex marriages on military bases.

The amendment will be offered to the Defense authorization bill, which the Armed Services Committee is considering today. 

The amendment comes in the aftermath of an apparent about-face by the Navy on a decision to allow Navy chaplains to perform same-sex marriages in Navy chapels, as the military makes preparations to remove its ban on homosexuality. On Tuesday afternoon, the Navy's chief of chaplains said the new policy allowing the same-sex marriages had been "suspended until further notice."

Akin’s amendment makes clear that the military is legally bound by the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The amendment states: “A military installation or other property under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense may be used as the site for a marriage ceremony only if the marriage complies with the definition of marriage in section 7 of title 1, United States Code." Section 7 of title 1 is the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The amendment further says that members of the Armed Forces, including chaplains and civilian employees of the Department of Defense acting in an official capacity “may assist in or perform a marriage ceremony only if the marriage complies with the definition of marriage in section 7 of title 1, United States Code."

Rep. Akin was one of 62 House lawmakers who sent a letter on Monday to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus complaining about an April 13 decision by the Navy Chief of Chaplains to allow Navy chaplains to perform same-sex marriages in Navy chapels. The letter argued that such a move would violate the Defense of Marriage Act.

“We find it difficult to understand how the military is somehow exempt from abiding by federal law,” the congressmen wrote. “Not only does this document imply recognition and support of same-sex marriage in opposition to DOMA, but it implies that the Navy will now perform these marriages so 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 are sworn to obey the law, which this new instruction violates.” had reported Monday morning that Rear Admiral Mark Tidd, the Navy chief of chaplains, had issued a memo that indicated that Navy lawyers had concluded that same-sex marriages could be performed on naval bases--and that Navy chaplains could perform them--if the unions occurred in states where they are legal.

On Monday evening and Tuesday, the story was prominently linked on The Drudge Report.

Less than 24 hours after the story was linked on Drudge, and after the congressmen sent their letter, the Navy apparently changed its mind on the new policy. Rear Admiral Tidd issued a one-sentence statement Tuesday afternoon saying that his earlier decision has been “suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination.”

The Navy said lawyers wanted to further review the legality of the decision.

Joe Kasper, communications director for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee who also signed the letter, said the Navy’s change of position was a welcome move, but it underscores the need for legislation to ensure that the Defense Department abides by the law as it prepares to usher out the military ban on homosexuality.

“It was the right thing to do,” Kasper told “But it doesn’t mean the issue won’t pop up again. If anything, the turnabout makes the case for a legislative approach, making the law as clear as possible. And we can’t ignore the problems with the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ process so far. The administration needs to take a deep breath and rethink some things. Or, at the very least, take a little more time not to offend our men and women in uniform or trample on the law.”

Tom McClusky, senior vice president of government relations at the Family Research Council, told that he believes the Navy hasn’t really changed its mind on efforts to bring in same-sex marriage, but simply chose to make a "tactical retreat" under pressure.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there was pressure from ‘on high’ – either from the top of the military or from the administration itself -- that decisions like this need to wait until after certification, basically when it might be too late for Congress to do anything about it,” McClusky said.