House directs Pentagon to uphold DOMA law on gay marriage

July 8, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) House lawmakers voted Thursday (July 7) to order the
Pentagon to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that defines
marriage as between one man and one woman.

In an amendment to a larger Defense Department funding bill, the
House voted 248-175 to restrict the Pentagon from granting same-sex
couples the same rights or benefits as married couples. The amendment is
also aimed at keeping military chaplains from officiating at same-sex
weddings.

The move comes at the Pentagon appears poised to lift the ban on
gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. After the Obama
administration called the 1996 law unconstitutional and signaled it will
no longer defend it in court, conservatives said the Pentagon needs
strict guidance on following the law.

Earlier this year, the Navy suspended a plan to allow Navy chaplains
to conduct same-sex weddings on military bases in states where it is
legal. After pushback from religious conservatives, Navy officials
agreed to study the issue further before adopting any new policies.

"I believe it's incumbent on the Congress to make this issue very
clear so that we don't have confusion on these military bases when we
talk about same-sex marriages," said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.

The House has yet to act on another amendment, sponsored by Rep. Tim
Huelskamp, R-Kan., that would prohibit the Pentagon from implementing a
chaplain training program on the repeal of the Don't Ask/Don't Tell
(DADT) policy.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said that amendment "would
substitute Congress's micromanagement for the judgment of our military
leaders on training issues, and it is a transparent attempt to interfere
with the repeal of DADT in any way possible."