Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and 63 members of the Republican caucus in the House have drafted a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus protesting the branch’s recent preliminary decision to allow gay couples to wed on navy bases in states that allow same-sex marriages. The Navy announced the possible change in an April 13th memorandum about the procedures for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“[I]t appears that the navy is preparing and training its chaplains to defy federal statute and ignore the provisions placed within the Defense of Marriage Act,” the Republicans wrote, noting that DOMA ensures that “the federal government would recognize only the union of one man and one woman as ‘marriage’”:
We find it difficult to understand how the military is somehow exempt from abiding by federal law. not only does this document imply recognition and support of same-sex marriage in opposition to DOMA, but it also implies that the Navy will now perform these marriages so long as they do not violate state statutes. [...]
Therefore Mr. Secretary we find it unconscionable that the United States Navy, a federal entity sworn to ‘preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States’ believes it is their place alone to train and direct servicemembers to violate federal law….[W]e agree with the vast majority of the American people that the preservation of marriage is critical to society’s stability and is in the best interest of the American families.
Akin has promised to offer an amendment prohibiting the practice, but the Pentagon insists that DOMA “does not limit the type of religious ceremonies a chaplain may perform in a chapel on a military installation,” and explained that while the marriages could be performed in the five states that recognize them, the Defense Department would “not recognize those unions as valid marriages” under DOMA.
Indeed, while DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, it does prevent the government from providing benefits to same-sex couples. Therefore, if the law allows Navy facilities to be used for recreational purposes — like celebrating family or “personal use as deemed appropriate by the base commander” — but does not use the word marriage, DOMA would not prevents the federal government from letting couples celebrate their marriage on Navy property.