A same-sex ceremony between a lesbian couple in the base chapel at Fort Polk in Louisiana has created a storm of controversy among conservative religious leaders and a growing number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“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.”
Fort Polk is in Fleming’s congressional district. The Fort Polk Public Affairs Office and the Army did not return numerous calls seeking comment.
The ceremony was conducted about three weeks ago by a chaplain for the Disciples of Christ, according to Ron Crews, executive director for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty.
“It was kept quiet,” Crews told Fox News Radio. He said the service was conducted in the military chapel, under the authorization of the chaplain’s denomination.
So if the same-sex ceremony was approved by the military – why the outrage?
“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.”
Akin, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is questioning the legality of the ceremony on the Defense of Marriage Act, which was recently overturned. However, last years the Defense Dept. gave permission for same-sex unions to be held on military installations.
He accused the Obama administration of “trying to drive their liberal and gay agenda through the military.”
“The federal law specifically prohibits this and even the advocates of going to same sex marriage in the military said they were not planning to do this. In every regard this is over the top,” he said. “In every regard this is over the top but I think it reflects the general direction that Obama and the liberal Senate want to take things.”
But a spokesman for American Veterans For Equal Rights, said gay and lesbian military personnel deserve the same rights afforded heterosexual troops.
“Considering that most Americans go about their daily lives and haven’t lifted a finger to defend freedom, I think the least this country can do is give equal benefits and equal rights to those who are serving their country,” Denny Meyer, the group’s public affairs officer told Fox News Radio.
He accused lawmakers like Akin and Fleming of “fomenting” hatred towards gay troops.
“They should be ashamed of themselves to try and deny the basic rights that any American has,” Meyer said. “The people opposed are using the military to foment hate and bigotry and divisiveness in America.”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) accused the Dept. of Defense of lying to the American people.
“This happened despite last year’s assurances from the Department of Defense that state law recognized only traditional marriage would be respected and upheld,” Huelskamp said in a statement. “They clearly lied.”
Fleming said the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has made incidents “like this inevitable.”
“My frustration is compounded by the fact that a social agenda, which has nothing to do with military readiness or our national defense, is being imposed on our men and women in uniform,” Fleming said. “This appears to be a promotion of an agenda utilizing military facilities. We don’t envision the purpose of the military to be a test tube for social changes in this country.”
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a Marine Corps veteran and former Louisiana legislator, said the ceremony was a clear violation of DOMA and accused the Obama administration of trying to toss “aside the marriage laws of forty-four states.”
“This ceremony at Fort Polk is further evidence that Congress must act to reinforce the Defense of Marriage Act, and make very clear that the military should not be exploited to advance this administration’s social agenda,” Perkins said.
Kelly Boggs, a spokesman for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, called the ceremony “troubling.”
“That military base is located in a state that has registered strong opposition to same sex marriage,” Boggs told Fox News Radio. “It seems like it could be a tacit endorsement by the military of same sex unions.”
Crews said the solution is for the U.S. Senate to pass the House bill banning such ceremonies. Until that happens, he said all military facilities, including chapels will be “sexual orientation neutral.”