Another of my predictions about the consequences of repealing DADT has proven valid. A Department of the Navy memo from 13 April indicates that Navy chaplains will be authorized to perform same-sex marriages on military bases in states where same-sex marriage is recognized.
Navy Times reports as follows:
The federal Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Responding to questions about the law and the new policy in an email, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez wrote: “DOMA does not limit the type of religious ceremonies a chaplain may perform in a chapel on a military installation. Chaplains are authorized to perform religious ceremonies consistent with the practices of the chaplain’s faith group in chapels on military installations.”
This is transparently a dodge. The other services – Army and Air Force; Navy policy on the chaplaincy applies to the Marine Corps as well – are not addressing the issue of same-sex marriages performed by chaplains on military bases. But it is only a matter of time until they are forced to address it.
As the Navy Times article observes, members of Congress object to the Navy guidance, some of them stating explicitly that it violates DOMA. But the Obama administration has announced that it will not defend DOMA in court, so it is not clear how Congress can proceed to prevent chaplains from presiding over same-sex marriages on military bases.
The obvious questions that will be raised include how such marriages are to be treated by the military, an agency of the federal government, and how they will be treated when the servicemembers are transferred to states that don’t recognize same-sex marriage. These questions will be dealt with through lawsuits.
One lawsuit that is coming will be against a chaplain who declines to perform a same-sex ceremony. The assurances of DOD spokesmen that chaplains won’t be asked to do anything inconsistent with their faith are meaningless. Chaplains are federal employees. There will be a judge somewhere who will accord a hearing to the argument that a chaplain has wrongfully discriminated. The argument will be that clerics should be free to believe anything they want, but that the federal government should not allow them to discriminate in the performance of their duties if they are in its employ.
Don’t bet against it. Two years ago, advocates for repeal of DADT pooh-poohed the idea that anyone wanted to use that as a wedge to attack DOMA and bring federal recognition of same-sex marriage in the back door. But their statements have been proven invalid. My predictions, on the other hand, are coming true.
*UPDATE*: News outlets are reporting this morning (Wed 11 May) that the Navy has reversed this policy following a letter from 63 members of Congress objecting to it as a violation of DOMA. It appears, for the moment, that the issue will have to be litigated from the same angle by which it will be approached in the other services.