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Why Are Military Chaplains Fearful Following the Supreme Court's Recent Gay Marriage Rulings?


"...marriage is the union of one man and one woman."

Rainbow flags fly on the corner of Castro Street and Market Street in San Francisco, Thursday, June 27, 2013. The Supreme Court issued rulings Wednesday that struck down a provision of a federal law that denies federal benefits to married gay couples and also cleared the way for state laws that recognize marriage equality. Credit: AP

In the wake of the Supreme Court's landmark rulings on gay marriage last week, opponents of same-sex unions are voicing concern over the eventual impact that the decisions might have. From nation-wide legalization to religious freedom fears, the discussion surrounding gay matrimony in America continues. Among those voicing worries over the potential fallout is Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty.

During an appearance on CNN over the weekend, the faith leader expressed concern over how the overturning of a key provision in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) could spell trouble for military chaplains who stand firmly opposed to gay unions.

"Chaplains have been protected by the Defense of Marriage Act in saying 'no' to same-sex couples for marriage counseling, for going on marriage retreats," Crews explained. "Most of of chaplains come from evangelical, orthodox backgrounds who hold to the belief and understanding that marriage is the union of one man and one woman."

A woman lies on a gay pride flag during a gay pride parade in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, June 30, 2013. People paraded through the capital demanding laws that grant social security benefits and marriage rights for gay couples. Credit: AP

He went on to note that he and his organization do not want to see U.S. chaplains "discriminated against for their rightly-held religious beliefs" now that the DOMA provision, which defined marriage as existing only between one man and one woman, has been nixed.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, though, noted that chaplains have not been forced to marry gay servicemen and servicewomen and that no faith leaders have lost their jobs as a result of opposition to same-sex unions. Crews, though, disagreed, highlighting alleged instances of discrimination.

"We do have some chaplains who have experienced some recrimination for their positions," he said. "A chaplain that was reassigned a position that he had been awarded, but based on his opposition to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' he was reassigned."

Crews also said that other chaplains were ordered to resign their commissions over views on the government's new policies -- regulatory changes that are more favorable to gays and lesbians than they have been in the past.

The faith leader claims that he plans to work with Congress to ensure that chaplains are protected amid changing social and political tides on the same-sex marriage front. Watch the clip, below:

TheBlaze began covering this issue of chaplains and gay weddings back in 2011. At that time, the Pentagon had issued a memo affirming the right of faith leaders to marry gay couples both on and off military bases. The proclamation also provided the right of chaplains to decline performing these weddings as well.

“A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law," the memo read. "Further 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."

So far, there is no indication that faith leaders in the military will be forced to marry gays and lesbians. That said, Crews and his organization are working to ensure that language is present under the law that, as the tides change, will continue protect religious conscience.


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