Conservatives Falsely Claim West Point Wedding Broke Federal Law

FRC envisions a military with soldiers who cry because of marriage equality.

Anti-gay conservatives continue to be outraged that two same-sex weddings took place at West Point this weekend, including one in the academy’s Cadet Chapel. Many though, are now making a false claim that the marriages somehow are a violation of federal law. Along with an image of a crying soldier, Tony Perkins argued in the Family Research Council’s Washington Update Monday that the weddings were inconsistent with the Defense of Marriage Act:

In September of last year, the Pentagon did issue a memo giving military bases the power to decide whether or not to host same-sex “weddings.” Of course, that guidance came from Jeh Johnson, general counsel for the Department of Defense–not Congress. According to Johnson, decisions about military facilities should be made on a “sexual-orientation neutral basis.” And while the “wedding” may have been consistent with Johnson’s memo, the DOD’s general counsel is no substitute for the 427 elected members of Congress who voted to define marriage as the union of a man and woman for the government’s purposes. That means it affects federal employees (which Fulton is) and federal property (where West Point resides). The President may vehemently disagree with the law–but until the Supreme Court overturns it or Congress rejects it, DOMA is still the law of the land.

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, whose life seems to be dedicated to opposing open service in the military, similarly argued that the marriages violated DOMA:

DONNELLY: Even though Congress made it very clear and it’s in the legislation that they intended the Defense of Marriage Act to be respected and honored on military bases, several times now the administration has allowed various branches of the service to disregard that. This is the most blatant example.

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer was more direct with this tweet:

Military breaks the law, allows homosexual “wedding” at West Point. So much for honoring their oath.

All of these interpretations distort was DOMA actually says. The law has two components. The first (Section 2) says that no state shall have to recognize a same-sex marriage performed elsewhere. The second (Section 3) simply states that for any federal regulation or Act of Congress, “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” It is an incredible stretch to interpret this language such that a same-sex wedding is somehow illegal merely because the resulting union is not recognized by the federal government. Plenty of activities are legal that are not accounted for in written law, many of which can also take place on government property. There’s no question that DOMA applies to these couples’ marriages, but it’s a very different question to try to apply it to their weddings.

What Perkins, Donnelly, Fischer, Robertson, and others really want is for the military academies to blatantly discriminate against gays and lesbians. If any graduate of the Academy is welcome to hold a wedding in the Cadet Chapel, then Brenda Sue Fulton should not be have been exempted merely because of who she was marrying.