The U.S. House of Representatives on July 8 voted to pass an amendment that blocks same-sex “weddings” on naval bases on the grounds they violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Supporters of the measure said it helped defend the religious liberty of chaplains.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) sponsored the amendment, which passed by a bipartisan vote of 236 to 184.
“What will happen to chaplains who decline to officiate over same-sex ceremonies?” he asked, referring to a rescinded U.S. Navy directive stating that chaplains “may” perform the ceremonies in states where they are recognized.
“I fear that chaplains who refuse to perform these ceremonies may find themselves under attack and their careers threatened,” he said, calling on the House to “ensure the religious liberty of all military members, particularly that of chaplains.”
The amendment also blocked funds for the Chaplain Corps’ the training manual on ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which barred open homosexuals from military service. The move could slow the implementation of the new policy.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, praised the amendment.
“Opening the military to same-sex weddings would not only violate federal law but also seriously threaten the religious liberty of military chaplains,” he said. “Military chaplains would fall into jeopardy if the Navy decides to enforce its referral policy in which any chaplain declining to perform a same-sex wedding would be required to find someone who would perform the wedding.”
Perkins thought this kind of referral could drive many chaplains out of the military altogether.
“I applaud U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp and the bipartisan majority for voting to protect religious liberty while reinforcing federal law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Catholic bishops have also voiced concern about religious freedom under the new policy.
In June 2010, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services said the changes could be potentially “enormous and overwhelming.”
“Catholic chaplains must show compassion for persons with a homosexual orientation, but can never condone—even silently—homosexual behavior,” he wrote.
The archbishop also voiced concern that a change in policy might negatively affect the role of the chaplain in the pulpit, the classroom, the barracks and the office. He said no restrictions on the teaching of Catholic morality can be accepted.