Army Chaplain Performs First-Ever Military Same-Sex Nuptial Ceremony in Chapel at Fort Polk in La.

June 6, 2012 - 10:05 PM

Fort Polk, La.

Fort Polk Joint Readiness Training Center, La. (Photo courtesy U.S. Army)

(CNSNews.com) - An Army chaplain has performed the first same-sex nuptial ceremony on a military base--one involving two lesbian soldiers.

The ceremony took place in Louisiana, a state where same-sex marriage is not legal, so it is being described as a "religious" ceremony only.

Rep John Fleming, M.D. (R-La.) told CNSNews.com on Wednesday that the U.S. Army had confirmed to him that the chaplain had performed the ceremony less than a month ago in the base chapel at Fort Polk, which is in Fleming’s district.

“It is my understanding that this is the first ceremony of its type on an American military base and that is, as it’s reported, it was a wedding ceremony between two members of the same gender who are uniformed members of the Army,” Fleming said in an interview with CNSNews.com.

Officials at Fort Polk and in the Army Office of Chief of Chaplains did not respond to CNSNews.com inquiries about the case.  A spokesman for Fort Polk told the Associated Press that the event was not a marriage ceremony but a "same-gender private religious ceremony."

Dr. Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Freedom,  told CNSNews.com that he had been briefed about the ceremony, which took place about three weeks ago in the base chapel.

A Disciples of Christ chaplain performed a “marriage-like” commitment ceremony for the two lesbian soldiers, Crews said.

“They were very careful in the wording, from what I understand, to make this only a religious ceremony,” Crews told CNSNews.com.

The Disciples of Christ denomination allows its clergy to perform same-sex "commitment" ceremonies.

“That raises the question about the new DOD policy that allows a chaplain to do a marriage-like ceremony in a military chapel in a state that has a clear definition of marriage in their state law,” said Crews, whose organization represents more than 2,500 Christian military chaplains.

“I think there’s something wrong with that picture,” Crews added.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.)

Rep. John Fleming (R-La) (Official photo)

Rep. Fleming, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Army confirmed that the ceremony was not billed as an official marriage.

“As it’s characterized, this ceremony occurred only as a religious ceremony, it was not intended or advertised to be a lawful or legal union,” Fleming said. “Such marriages between persons of the same-sex are not recognized by the state of Louisiana, so it can’t be a lawful or legal marriage ceremony.

“That’s a bit distressing in itself, because, why go through this, except for social or cultural experimentation, or to push forward or propagate somebody’s agenda?” Fleming asked.

“I just think it’s inappropriate to use military facilities for that purpose,” he added.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), chairman of the Seapower & Projection Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, blasted the military for allowing the ceremony to be held in a military chapel.

“It is very concerning that a same-sex ceremony would occur on a military base in a state where the definition of marriage has been clearly defined as between one man and one woman,” Akin said.

In a statement, Akin wondered whether the action violates the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was recently overturned by a judge in San Francisco.

“This appears to be a case where a political agenda has trumped the rule of law, which is absolutely unacceptable,” Akin said.

In 2011, Akin offered an amendment to H.R. 1540 which was stripped by the Senate.

Last month, the Missouri Republican offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 which would protect service members and chaplains from recriminations based on their concerns regarding same-sex marriage.

“This confirms the importance of the language that my colleagues and I worked to include in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, which would protect chaplains and service members from this liberal agenda,” Akin said.

“The same individuals who will violate the law to advance their agenda will persecute those around them who disagree with their views.”

Rep. Fleming, meanwhile, told CNSNews.com that the repeal of the military policy barring homosexuals from serving in the military made this situation virtually inevitable.

“My frustration is compounded by the fact that a social agenda, which has nothing to do with military readiness or our national defense, is being imposed on our men and women in uniform,” he said.

“One might (say), ‘Well, it’s just one simple ceremony, it’s just one blip in history,’ but, unfortunately, I would expect an avalanche of similar ceremonies may occur, and once again, the publicity and so forth that may follow that could have a tremendous negative impact on military readiness,” Fleming added.