Republican Congressman Moves To Ban Same-Sex Weddings on Military Bases

Nearly a month after two men became the first gay couple to marry on a military base since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill on Thursday with an amendment that would ban any such ceremonies from taking place in the future.

king_headshot_low_res.jpgIowa Republican Rep. Steve King attached the amendment to the 2013 Defense Appropriations bill, arguing that President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were violating the Defense of Marriage Act by allowing military chaplains to perform same-sex weddings on military bases, reports Politico.

The Defense Department issued a memo to chaplains in September after the ban was lifted on out gay military members advising that same-sex weddings could take place so long as they did not violate state and local law or the beliefs of the military chaplains.

For King, such a move flouted federal law.

“This amendment prohibits the use of military facilities or the pay of military chaplains for being used to contravene the Defense of Marriage Act,” King told members of the House.

DOMA is currently being challenged in federal courts due to a section that denied married same-sex couples many of the benefits enjoyed by straight couples.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) labeled the amendment “discriminatory” and said it had no place in the appropriations bill.

“We should have a debate on the effects of DOMA on our servicemembers and their families,” Dicks said, “but introducing this contentious and discriminatory amendment is not the place.”

The Republican-dominated body approved the amendment 247-166.

King’s attempt to defend DOMA on military bases comes weeks after Air Force Tech Sgt. Erwynn Umali married his partner, Will Behrens, on a base in New Jersey, becoming the first gay couple in American history to do so.

According to ABC News, the wedding was officiated over by a Lutheran Navy chaplain.

Umali told ABC News that he never thought he would be able to dance with a man on a military installation.

“We fully understand we are going to have more battles, however, they only make us stronger,” Behrens added.

The appropriations bill now moves to the Senate where King’s amendment will be considered for final passage.

UPDATE at 12:50P FRIDAY: The Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which works to bring LGBT equality to America’s military, issued a statement on Friday condemning King’s amendment and questioning his knowledge of DOMA. Aubrey Sarvis said King is “wasting Congress’s time and energy” with his amendment to the defense appropriations bill.

“This language put forth by Congressman King would do nothing new. No funds can ever be spent in contravention of federal law. With this amendment, the Congressman is wasting Congress’ time and energy by restating current law in an attempt to infringe upon the rights of chaplains to practice their own faith and relegate gay and lesbian service members to second-class status by restricting their use of military facilities,” said Sarvis, who is an Army veteran.

“Clearly, Congressman King doesn’t understand what the Defense of Marriage Act actually does. It does not prohibit a chaplain from performing a same-sex ceremony that is consistent with the tenets of his or her faith, and it does not prevent the use of military facilities for private religious ceremonies,” Sarvis said. “If the Congressman wants a debate about the inequalities thrust upon America’s gay and lesbian service members by DOMA, let’s have that debate. But perhaps, he should first undertake a review of the law and come to the debate prepared.”

[Photo: Rep. Steve King official portrait.]

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's political editor and White House correspondent. He can be reached at jsnow@metroweekly.com.

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