A bill introduced in the U.S. House last week aims to prevent gay couples from marrying on military bases and would also prevent chaplains from being “required” to marry same-sex couples — even though the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in no way requires them to do so.
Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp is sponsoring a bill that stipulates the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” cannot be used to force chaplains to do anything against their beliefs, he said in an announcement Friday, including marrying gay partners.
“It will also protect the freedom of those in the military to express vocally the tenets of their faiths. And it will make certain that our military facilities are not used in contravention to the federal Defense of Marriage Act,” he said. “Military installations exist to carry out the national defense of our nation, not to facilitate a narrow social agenda.”
The legislation, called the `Military Religious Freedom Protection Act’ (HR 3828), would “amend title 10, [of the] United States Code, to require that implementation of the repeal of the former Department of Defense policy concerning homosexual behavior in the Armed Forces not infringe upon the free exercise of religion by and the rights of conscience of members of the Armed Forces, including chaplains, and for other purposes.”
The legislation says:
`(2) A military chaplain shall not be directed, ordered, or required 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 or religious beliefs of the chaplain’s faith group. The refusal by a military chaplain to perform a 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 or religious beliefs of the chaplain’s faith group shall not be the basis for any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.
`(c) Regulations- The Secretary of Defense shall issue regulations setting forth guidance to implement the protections afforded by this section.’.
It then goes on to stipulate in Section 3:
A military installation or other property owned, rented, or otherwise under the jurisdiction or control of the Department of Defense shall 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.
This legislation mirrors a bill filed last year in the House. That bill, filed by Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin with the backing of more than 80 legislators, served as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. It was however pulled from the final version of the NDAA before it was sent to President Obama.
The Pentagon has repeatedly issued notice that, as a matter of religious and civil autonomy, chaplains may marry same-sex couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal but they will not be forced to do so if it is against their religious convictions.
Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, hit out at the legislation, saying in a statement that it is attempting to stir up a problem that doesn’t exist:
“Here they go again with another round of resistance tactics that have already been rejected by Congress and the American people. There is no need for the so-called ‘protections’ in this bill or the proposed regulations. No chaplain today is being required or pressured to marry anyone, straight or gay. Period. The bill’s ban on use of military facilities and chaplains officiating at ceremonies for gay and lesbian service members is nothing more than plain, old-fashion discrimination. There is no place for that prejudice in our armed forces or in our country,” said Sarvis.
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