Answering the Claim that the Repeal of DOMA Will Force Military Chaplains to Perform Gay Marriages

In response to claims that the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will force military chaplains to perform gay marriages, a defense official told me today that chaplains are not required to perform marriages which violate the tenets of their religion.

The day DOMA was repealed, David Barton opined to Glenn Beck that military chaplains will now have to perform weddings for gay service members.  Barton said DOMA had protected “the rights of chaplains not to have to perform gay marriage against their will.” He then predicted that chaplains would be under renewed pressure to perform these ceremonies.

However, according to a defense official, nothing has changed because of the repeal of DOMA. The official told me “a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs.”

Given this stance, it seems quite unlikely that gay people will join the military just to get married, as Barton predicted Monday. A more efficient route for someone who lives in a state which does not recognize gay couples would be to go to a state without a residency requirement (e.g., Massachusetts). In any case for now, DOD is on record as saying chaplains can refuse to perform private ceremonies if those activities violate the tenets of their religion.


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  • ken

    Barton is just blowing smoke as usual. About the only potential problem with DOMA and the military would be requiring a base/ship’s commander to officiate a civil marriage. However, I suspect such a situation (i.e. where a same-sex couple are both stationed overseas and wish to marry) is years away. Further, I doubt anybody in the military would be stupid enough to antagonize a superior officer by trying to force him/her to officiate a civil marriage if he/she doesn’t want to. More likely the couple would find someone who is willing to officiate.

  • Boo

    Of course, violating the religious freedom of chaplains who were fine with performing marriages for same sex couples was totally different. Because science.

  • Throbert McGee

    Could a Roman Catholic chaplain refuse to offer “couples counseling” to a Catholic gay service member and spouse? Or, more generally, could the DOD be required to take a position when internal disputes arise between “gay flock members” and “traditionalist clergy”[*] who are nominally of the same religion?

    [*] Or, conversely, traditionalist flock members and gay-affirming clergy.

  • Gus

    David Barton is afraid of an invasion of southern military bases with people with constitutional rights to serve and live their lives. And that cannot happen, people might decide it just doesn’t matter to them.