In a sign that equal marriage might be made a more prominent issue than previously thought, following President Obama’s support for the measure, Republican-led House of Representatives have hastily added a provision on to a large-scale defence bill that would ban equal marriage ceremonies at military chapels.
The annual National Defense Authorization Act [sic], worth some $642 billion this year, is usually a bipartisan bill, and so, it is something lawmakers might find it difficult to oppose, US media reports say. It includes a 1.7% annual pay-raise for troops, and some have expressed frustration that politically charged issues are being grafted on to it, just so the bill would pass through.
As such, the White House had threatened to veto the bill, despite the tradition to make it bipartisan, as the Congress broke the agreement made with the Obama administration in adding extra $8 billion to the budget.
Now, the coda grafted on equal marriage would ban same-sex ceremonies, even those that were not ‘marriage,’ on all military facilities, and in addition, would protect military chaplains from punishment if they declined to marry a gay couples.
This measure comes in response to the announcement by Department of Defense last year that, after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ military chaplains were allowed to conduct weddings for gay couples, though they were not required. One spokesperson for the Department told PinkNews.co.uk that, to his knowledge, there have been no same-sex ceremonies in military chapels so far.
Republican Representative, Todd Akin, who authored one of the provisions, said: “Liberals may have successfully ended ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ but they should not be allowed to force members of our military to give up their religious beliefs… That is simply unacceptable and unconstitutional.”
The Obama administration has been quick to condemn the provisions as ‘troublesome and potentially unconstitutional,’ with Adam Smith, the most senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee calling it an attack on gay service members.
According to US media reports, gay rights groups are monitoring the bill closely, and expect that the Senate, where Democrats have the advantage, would not let the provisions pass.