House Approves Ban On Same-Sex Unions On Military Bases

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed an amendment to the 2013 Defense Appropriations Bill that would bar same-sex couples from holding weddings or other commitment ceremonies on military bases and ban military chaplains from conducting any such unions.

The measure was the work of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who claimed the Obama Administration was trying to circumvent DOMA by allowing gay couples to wed on-base.

“The Defense of Marriage Act means this: Marriage means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. And the word ‘spouse’ only refers to a member of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife,” said King. “[It’s a] pretty simple statute being contravened by the President of the United States as exercised through the Secretary of Defense.”

The issue of same-sex ceremonies on military stations came to the fore when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed. But after Slate reported on the union of Air Force Tech Sargent Erwynn Umali and his fiance, Will Behrens, at a joint military base in new Jersey,  King pulled out the big guns.

The news isn’t as bad as it seems, though. The measure actually bans the use of military funds for the purpose of same-sex marriages–something that isn’t actually happening anyway.

“This language put forth by Congressman King would do nothing new,” explains Aubrey Sarvis, director of the Service Members Legal Defense Network. “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… and relegate gay and lesbian service members to second-class status.”