Gay Marriage on a U.S. Military Base and the Religious Right’s Hypocrisy

Apparently there was a wedding ceremony for two lesbians in the base chapel at Fort Polk in Louisiana, conducted by one of the base chaplains.

Not surprisingly, the Radical Religious Right (RRR) is outraged. Here are some of the quotations from the Fox News site:

“The liberal social experiment with our military continues,” Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) told Fox News Radio. “A same-sex marriage-like ceremony should not have occurred at Fort Polk, especially since the people of Louisiana have made it abundantly clear that our state does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.”

“It raises the issue that Louisiana is a state that has a clear definition of marriage,” Crews said. “By allowing this on military installations, this means that chaplains in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq could conduct same sex ceremonies like this. How will this look to our coalition partners who do not approve of same sex unions?”

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) authored legislation that would prohibit same sex ceremonies on any military base. The House approved the bill but the Senate has yet to take action. Akin told Fox News Radio that it doesn’t matter what you call it – what happened at Fort Polk was a gay marriage.

“It’s outrageous and illegal,” he said. “This appears to be a case where political agenda has trumped the rule of law, which is absolutely unacceptable.”

Now, the lesbian couple is not married in the eyes of the law: neither the state of Louisiana nor the U.S. Government (including the U.S. Army) recognize the marriage. So what we have here is a case where one religious denomination, the Disciples of Christ, performed a purely religious wedding ceremony that has no legal significance whatsoever.

In other words, the members of that church exercised their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion. Both Fleming and Akin seem to have forgotten that and blur the distinction between marriage from a religious perspective and marriage from a legal perspective. Churches have the right to perform weddings  or not perform weddings for whoever they wish, in accordance with their doctrines; that has nothing whatsoever to do with whether those marriages are recognized by law.

Imagine if we had a member of congress publicly saying, “A Wiccan ceremony should not have happened at Fort Polk, especially since the people of Louisiana have made it abundantly clear that they don’t like Wicca.” That would clearly be inconsistent with the free exercise of religion. How is this non-legally-binding Disciples of Christ ceremony any different?

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