It seems like only yesterday that the Navy announced its chaplains would be allowed to perform same-sex marriages. Actually, it was last month. The decision did not sit well with many members of Congress, including Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), who wrote a letter with 63 Congressional co-signers asking the secretary of the Navy to reconsider.
On Tuesday, the chief of the Navy chaplains, Rear Admiral Mark Tidd, released a terse memo announcing the same-sex marriage decision has been “suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and inter-departmental coordination.” Fox News was informed by a “senior Navy official” that “broader legal and policy questions” must be answered.
The original Navy memo would authorize Navy chaplains to perform same-sex marriage on bases located in states where it is legal, after the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been officially repealed. As Fox News points out, “The Navy’s decision triggered an uproar, particularly since the Army and Air Force had not made similar decisions, and there was no overall Defense Department guidance issued on the same-sex marriage issue.”
The argument against the Navy’s policy hinged on the way it would violate the Defense of Marriage Act, which was recently declared a dead letter by the nation’s foremost legal scholar, Constitutional judge, and spiritual leader, Barack Obama. Congress continues to take it seriously, seeing as how it’s a law and all.
The Defense of Marriage Act, passed under President Bill Clinton in 1996, prohibits the federal government from officially recognizing marriage as anything but the legal union of one man and one woman. It also asserts the right of states that don’t allow same-sex marriage to refuse to recognize such marriages performed in other states. It seems difficult to imagine the Navy’s proposed authorization of same-sex marriages as anything but a violation of this Act. The Navy is part of the federal government, after all. In fact, it’s currently everyone’s favorite part.
Akin made this point in his letter to the secretary of the Navy: “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 service members to violate federal law.”
“The law of the land is that the federal government defines marriage as between one man and one woman,” Akin added in a statement. “This new guidance from the Navy clearly violates the law. While our President may not like this law, it is unbelievable that our Navy would issue guidance that clearly violates this law. While a state may legalize same-sex marriage, federal property and federal employees, like Navy chaplains, should not be used to perform marriages that are not recognized by federal law.”
Changing society is hard work, whether the desired end result is virtuous or not. Even those who support the acceptance of same-sex marriage should understand that it shouldn’t be cultivated in a military petri dish and injected into society as a retro-virus. This is not a matter for shortcuts and end runs. Allowing military chaplains to perform same-sex marriages is one lawsuit away from compelling them to do so.
If we’re going down that road, then let us come together as a nation and debate the lawful repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Let its defenders have their say, as well as its opponents. That will be a tough political battle. It should be. The opponents of DOMA might win. Meanwhile, the representatives of a republic don’t get to ignore laws they find personally objectionable. That is a privilege reserved for the ruling class of an entirely different sort of nation.
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