No, Buck McKeon. DOMA Does Not Forbid Gay Marriages On Military Bases

Last time we checked in with House Armed Services Committee Chair Howard “Buck” McKeon, he had foisted a sad Hail Mary attempt to delay the “Don’t Ask, Don’ Tell” repeal. Well now he’s back with an ingenious plan to deny military funding for the first time in fifty years unless the defense spending bill includes an amendment forbidding military chaplains from performing same-sex marriages. He says it opposes the federal Defense of Marriage Act or something, even though it doesn’t.

You see, last week the Pentagon said that military chaplains can perform same-sex marriages on military bases as long as doing so doesn’t conflict with a chaplain’s personal or religious beliefs.

McKeon doesn’t like that and his reasoning goes like this: Since DOMA forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, the Pentagon can’t allow U.S. military employees to conduct illegal marriages on federal property. In his opinion, doing so would be a direct violation of federal law.

But McKeon’s specious argument misses two points. One, it assumes there’s no difference between a religious wedding ceremony and a civilly recognized marriage. Chaplains aren’t being asked to bestow any legal rights onto same-sex couples, they’re only being asked to conduct a religious ceremony—nothing more. As such, they’re not violating DOMA.

Secondly, the Pentagon has not required military officials to perform same-sex unions on military bases. If the Pentagon had, one would construe that as federal support of same-sex marriages. But instead, the Pentagon has left the power in the hands of chaplains, in essence telling them, “Hey, if you wanna conduct a same-sex marriage, do it. If not, don’t. We won’t legally recognize them, but if you want to bless them, go ahead.”

Thus, it’s just political grandstanding by Mr. McKeon, who’d like to draw a contrast between his party and the fact that it cannot stop the slow but inevitable recognition of gay couples by the U.S. government. But don’t lose heart, Mr. McKeon! At least 2,000 military chaplains have pledged not to conduct any gay marriages anywhere. There. Now will you give the military their money already?