Last month, Chief of the Navy Chaplains Rear Admiral Mark Tidd issued a memorandum declaring that since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Navy has made a preliminary decision to allow gay couples to marry on Navy bases in states that allow same-sex marriages and permit chaplains to take part in the ceremonies. The ruling sparked outrage from conservatives and far-right organizations, which immediately claimed that the policy undermined the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Last night, Tidd announced that the Navy would be suspending its preliminary ruling until further notice “pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination.”
The Pentagon had insisted that DOMA “does not limit the type of religious ceremonies a chaplain may perform in a chapel on a military installation,” stressing that the Defense Department would still “not recognize those unions as valid marriages” under DOMA. Same-sex couples would also be prohibited from receiving any of the benefits — health, housing — offered to heterosexual married couples.
Legal sources have told ThinkProgress that while DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, it does not 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.
Still, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council — an organization that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — condemned the the administration for “trying to enlist the troops in its war on DOMA.” Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and 63 members of the Republican caucus in the House drafted a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus protesting the preliminary decision and Akin offered an amendment to the defense authorization bill prohibiting the practice. Akin’s office told the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson that the Congressman “may still offer” his amendment during the House Armed Services Committee’s consideration of defense budget legislation this week. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) has also offered a separate amendment reiterating that the Defense Department must apply DOMA “in determining the meaning of or applying any ruling, policy, regulation, benefit, or benefit program.” (H/T: Lez Get Real)