WASHINGTON (AP) – Under pressure from more than five dozen House lawmakers, the Navy late Tuesday abruptly reversed its decision that would have allowed chaplains to perform same-sex unions if the Pentagon decides to recognize openly gay military service later this year.
In a one-sentence memo obtained by The Associated Press, Rear Adm. Mark Tidd, chief of Navy chaplains, said his earlier decision has been “suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination.”
The Navy said its lawyers wanted to do a more thorough review of the legal decision that allowed Navy chaplains to receive training to perform civil unions on military bases, but only in states where same-sex unions are legal.
The full AP story is here.
This news story shows that last December’s repeal by Congress of the federal law prohibiting people who engage in homosexual conduct from serving in the military (sometimes called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or DADT) raises major questions on how it interacts with the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriages as one man and one woman for all purposes of federal law. And Congress never really debated or discussed the possible ”domino effect” of repeal of DADT on DOMA. The hasty and rushed Congressional debate on repeal of DADT described the people affected as individuals who engage in homosexual conduct, and did not examine how the repeal would affect same-sex couples. This narrow casting of the debate on the DADT repeal obscured important legal and practical questions. For example, if the military allows open homosexuals to serve in the military, must the military open base housing for married couples to same-sex couples if they are legally married in one of the states or nations that allows same sex marriage or same-sex civil unions? Must it extend military benefits to same-sex couples? What about allowing same-sex weddings in military chapels? Federal DOMA would seem to prevent those changes, but Congress never debated how the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would affect federal DOMA. The Navy’s earlier order permitting same-sex weddings in military chapels shows the consequences of rushing through the repeal of DADT. Congress should not fully implement the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell until it has fully investigated how it will affect federal DOMA.