Amendment to bar Same-Sex Marriages on Military Bases Passes Committee

May 12, 2011 - 12:38 PM
Akin and Jones

House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo. listens at left, as fellow committee member Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. , questions Army Gen. David Petraeus, during the committee's hearing on Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 16, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

(CNSNews.com) - The House Armed Services Committee Wednesday night passed an amendment to the defense authorization bill which makes it clear that same-sex marriages can not be performed on military bases.

On a 38-23 vote, the committee approved the measure, sponsored by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), which clarifies military policy in relation to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“This amendment leaves no doubt as to the position of our United States Armed Forces regarding marriage, as recognized by federal law,” Akin said in a statement after the vote.

“Under federal law and this amendment, U.S. military bases may not be used to solemnize same-sex unions, nor may military chaplains perform these unions in the course of their official duties, and the definition of marriage is between one man and one woman,” Akin said.

In addition, a measure offered by Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-Mo.) passed the committee by a 39-22 margin reaffirming that the Defense of Marriage Act applies to the armed forces, one of 300 measures the committee dealth with.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins praised Akin for taking the lead in “trying to ensure that the military is not used to advance the liberal social agenda of the Obama administration.”

“Rep. Akin is advancing an amendment that protects religious freedom while reinforcing federal law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, for which he deserves our thanks," Perkins said.

Akin drafted his amendment in response to a memo issued by the Navy Chief of Chaplains in mid-April, which Perkins had made public late last week.

In the memo, Rear Admiral Michael Tidd said that when the repeal of the law regarding homosexuals in the military was fully implemented, Navy chaplains who wished to do so could perform same-sex marriages in Navy chapels, but only in the states where such unions are legal.

On Monday, CNSNews.com published a story about the shift in Navy training.

Also on Monday, Akin and 62 House lawmakers sent a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus arguing that the Navy move would violate the federal 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.

Less than 24 hours after the congressmen sent their letter, the Navy appeared to change its mind on the new policy. In a one-sentence statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Tidd said that his earlier decision had been “suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination.”

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, commended the House Armed Services Committee for acting to resolve a problem that, she said, “came to light prematurely.”  She also praised Akin for taking the lead. 

“Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) deserves an awful lot of credit for acting quickly. He went to his colleagues and got 63 signatures on an immediate letter to the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, and almost overnight the Navy tried to give the appearance that they were backtracking,” Donnelly told CNSNews.com.

Donnelly said that the admiral’s one-line memo did not signal that the Navy was retracting the same-sex marriage policy.

“If you look at the one-line message that they sent – that in essence they were suspending this memo and that it was going to be reassessed by the lawyers – that was not a retraction,” Donnelly said. “It really didn’t change anything. It really was an equivocation that showed that it was really a weathervane policy that could switch on a dime.” 

Taken together, the Akin amendment and the Hartzler amendment will cover a wide variety of “devils in the details” -- such as same-sex marriage on military bases, Donnelly told CNSNews.com.  

“If (these amendments) do get approved on the floor -- that will be the next thing to happen -- I think the president is going to get a very stiff message: ‘Not so fast. You cannot certify no harm to the military until we see the fine print,’” she added.

Congress passed a measure eliminating Don't Ask Don't Tell from mlitary law. However, that could not happen until 60 days after President Obama, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff first certify to Congress that removing the military ban on homosexuality will not harm the services. 

The Akin and Hartzler amendments are attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, which would provide $690 billion for the Department of Defense and the national security activities within the Department of Energy for the next fiscal year.