WASHINGTON — Intent on delaying a new policy allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces, the House voted Friday to prohibit military chaplains from performing same-sex marriages on the nation's bases regardless of state law.
On a 236-184 vote, the House attached the measure to the defense spending bill, one of several steps the Republican-controlled chamber has taken this year to delay President Obama's new policy. Pentagon leaders have said they see no roadblocks to ending the 17-year ban, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is likely to certify the change for midsummer after military training ends.
Still, opposition is strong in the House.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., sponsor of the amendment, said he wanted to ensure that "America's military bases are not used to advance a narrow social agenda."
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The measure would block funds to train the Chaplain Corps on the new policy. Huelskamp said the intent was to prevent chaplains from performing same-sex marriages, especially on Navy bases.
"What will happen to chaplains who decline to officiate over same-sex ceremonies?" he asked. "The directive states that chaplains 'may' perform same-sex civil marriage ceremonies. I fear that chaplains who refuse to perform these ceremonies may find themselves under attack and their careers threatened."
Separately, a federal appeals court in California this week ordered the U.S. government to cease enforcing the ban on openly gay members of the military.
Opponents of the amendment argued that more than a million members of the military have been trained on the new standard and Pentagon leaders see no adverse impact on the force.
The vote's practical effect is unclear. The ban is likely to be lifted before Congress completes the defense spending bill for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.