Military Atheists Celebrate DOMA Downfall

mattphelpsbenschockToday the Supreme Court reinstated equal marriage in California and opened the door to allow federal government agencies to recognize the marriages of military men and women throughout the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. MAAF applauds this decision and will continue to support efforts to reform military culture and practices to ensure equal opportunity for all regardless of sexual orientation. Much work is to be done on the basis of sexual orientation including allowance for gay marriage in many states, there is also an ongoing struggle to accommodate issues of gender identity (non-cisgendered) service.

In the past (certainly prior to the late 2000s), the LGB community was in the position of weakness, with lack of acceptance in culture, public opinion, and law. Now, the opposite is true. Now, those with anti-gay theology are now in a position to find where they will fit when culture, public opinion, and law do not reflect their theology.

In the military, chaplains cannot and should not be forced to perform a wedding they don’t wish to perform but will they be required to oversee a marriage retreat that includes gay couples? Chaplains should not be forced to denounce their own theology, even if it diverges from military policy, but they will be required to work with and in many ways support LGB service members in their unit. These questions apply to everyone in the military, such as doctors, nurses, housing managers, assignment managers, and commanders. Fortunately, the repeal of DADT went over with essentially no negative results, and hopefully the larger change resulting from the repeal of DOMA will also be widely accepted.

The American Humanist Association has reported on the Supreme Court rulings:

The decision declaring unconstitutional Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and a decision that left intact a lower court decision overturning of California’s Prop 8 are narrow rulings but are being hailed as positive steps forward toward a unified country where marriage equality will eventually be universal. The rulings leave intact for now the laws of states that forbid same-sex marriage.

“Today the Supreme Court wisely stopped the federal government from its practice of discriminating against loving couples on account of some politicians’ religious bias,” said American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “Now we turn our attention to the states that remain intolerant with an aim of eradicating institutionalized discrimination.”

Pictured above is a photo from the marriage of Marine Captain Matt Phelps to Ben Schock. Matt, also a foxhole atheist, has been an advocate for LGBT reform, and his own story is inspiring and telling. He was able to propose to Ben at the White House. He danced with Ben at the marriage of West Point graduate Sue Fulton to her long-time partner Penny Gnesin after their wedding at West Point’s historic Cadet Chapel. However, in the current situation, his husband cannot follow him on assignment. Lack of access to the installation, denial of funding for relocation, and lack of accommodation in relationship counseling (which are chaplain-led) either inhibit or prohibit the marriage of Ben and Matt in the military world. We can celebrate again when same-sex couples have all these financial and legal protections to not only allow for the marriage but to ensure that all families enjoy equal support.

MAAF joined the USA v Windsor Amicus Brief filed by AHA as part of a long-standing support for open service for all. In 2010, MAAF framed the issue in the following way:

After decades of hand-wringing about the impact open service may have on combat power, senior military leaders and respected veterans confirm that the military is ready to choose integrity over discrimination… Opponents of open service for all are now limited almost exclusively to religious advocacy organizations using sectarian arguments.

In a September 2011 when DADT was repealed, there was a long road forward. With DOMA repealed, the largest obstacle is pushed aside. Secretary Hagel was at Pentagon Pride just last night and is holding press briefings today following the repeal. The eagerness within the executive branch is encouraging, but even with legal challenges aside, execution and implementation is a long road.


One Response to Military Atheists Celebrate DOMA Downfall

  1. I am so pleased to see that Progressive ideas are moving forward in America. I propose a ‘race’ between the US and the UK, where, only 23 days ago, the laws here are moving closer to fully legal same-sex marriages, which might take effect next summer. The House of Lords has given an OVERWHELMING approval (390 against the 148 opposed, if memory serves me correctly) to the proposed legislation that has already received the thumbs-up from the House of Commons. Even the Church of England has recognised that it needs to support the Government’s decision over here!!

    So, which country will be first with moving forward? America, or Britain???

    –from an unapologetic, self-avowed, Humanist in the UK

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