White House 'Strongly Objects' to Legislation Protecting Military Chaplains from Doing Same-Sex Weddings or Being Forced to Act Against Conscience

May 16, 2012 - 3:35 AM

DADT repeal, Obama signs DADT

Lawmakers and supporters look on as President Barack Obama signs "don't ask, don't tell" repeal legislation that would allow gays to serve openly in the military, on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010, at the Interior Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration “strongly objects” to provisions in a House defense authorization bill that would prohibit the use of military property for same-sex “marriage or marriage-like” ceremonies, and protect military chaplains from negative repercussions for refusing to act against their consciences, as, for example, in being ordered to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony.

In a policy statement released Wednesday, the White House Office of Management and Budget outlined numerous objections to aspects of the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Bill (H.R. 4310). The bill was reported out of the House Armed Services Committee last week and is set to be debated in the House, beginning Wednesday. (See related story)

Overall, it recommends that President Obama veto H.R. 4310 if its cumulative effects “impede the ability of the Administration to execute the new defense strategy and to properly direct scarce resources.”

The veto warning is not specifically linked to the two provisions dealing with marriage, but they are listed among parts of the bill which the administration finds objectionable.

The memo said the two provisions “adopt unnecessary and ill-advised policies that would inhibit the ability of same-sex couples to marry or enter a recognized relationship under State law.”

Section 536 of H.R. 4310 states in part that no member of the armed forces may “direct, order, or require a chaplain to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain, or contrary to the moral principles and religious beliefs of the endorsing faith group of the chaplain.”

Further, no member of the armed forces may “discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain, including denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment, on the basis of the refusal by the chaplain to comply with a direction, order, or requirement” that is prohibited by the previous clause.

The OMB complained that, “in its overbroad terms,” section 536 “is potentially harmful to good order and discipline.”

Section 537 of H.R. 4310 states that “[a] military installation or other property owned or rented by, or otherwise under the jurisdiction or control of, the Department of Defense may not be used to officiate, solemnize, or perform a marriage or marriage-like ceremony involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman.”

That provision, the OMB said in the memo, would make it obligatory for the department “to deny Service members, retirees, and their family members access to facilities for religious ceremonies on the basis of sexual orientation, a troublesome and potentially unconstitutional limitation on religious liberty.”

Obama in December 2010 signed into law legislation repealing a ban on homosexuals and lesbians serving openly in the military. Last week he publicly endorsed same-sex marriage for the first time.

The House Armed Services Committee passed H.R. 4310 on May 9 by a 56-5 bipartisan vote, the only nays coming from Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree (Me.), John Garamendi (Calif.), Tim Ryan (Ohio), Hank Johnson (Ga.) and Jackie Speier (Calif.).

The two provisions dealing with marriage were passed earlier the same day by much smaller margins, largely along party lines.

The amendment on the use of military installations for same-sex ceremonies, introduced by Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.), passed by 37-24, with only three Democrats – Reps. Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Madeleine Bordallo (Guam) and Larry Kissell (N.C.) – voting with the Republican majority.

The amendment establishing a conscience protection clause for military chaplains, introduced by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), passed by 36-25, with North Carolina Democrats McIntyre and Kissell again voting in favor.