Conservative and Christian activists are threatening to sue to stop military chaplains from performing gay marriage ceremonies. The activists say they’ll turn to the courts if the Senate does not pass the annual defense authorization bill with language banning the practice, The Washington Post
The version of the bill that sets military policy adopted in the House includes such language, along with hundreds of spending and policy provisions.
The issue arose a month ago when Navy chaplains were told they could perform such ceremonies in states where same-sex marriage is legal after the ban on gays openly serving in the military ended. The Navy withdrew the policy pending further review by Pentagon lawyers, the Post reported.
Leaders of 21 Christian organizations that select chaplains to represent their denomination wrote to the top chaplains of the Air Force, Army, and Navy to express their concern and request explicit conscience protections for chaplains, according to the Post. However, a Defense Department spokeswoman said such protections already exist.
Austin Nimocks, senior counsel with the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, said his group would fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court if the Senate does not adopt the House language.
“If the Senate does not follow the House and protect chaplains and service members, we have no doubt that legal action will be required,” the Post quoted Nimocks as saying.
However, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Aubrey Sarvis said, “Chaplains and service members are secure and protected.” Sarvis characterized the effort to further protect chaplains as “another desperate end run” by social conservatives. The defense network supports ending the ban on gays serving openly in the military, the Post reported.
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