Courtesy of the aggregator RealClearReligion , I chanced upon this story at the ABC News website by Erin McLaughlin, titled ” First Military Base Same-Sex Wedding Held .”  It concerns a male couple, one of them an Air Force noncom, the other a civilian, who were “married” by a Lutheran Navy chaplain (no, there’s no such thing as the Lutheran Navy, you know what I mean) at a military base now called by the cumbersome name Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

I put “married” in quotation marks, not because I want to call into question the idea of a same-sex couple being married, although that is truly impossible in the nature of things, no matter what the law says.  No, I use the quotation marks this time because the “wedding” (complete with “newlyweds” elsewhere in the story) is said to have taken place in the state of New Jersey, where I sit while typing this.  The state of New Jersey has not established same-sex marriage in its laws.  The most it has done—and this is more than it should—is create “civil unions” for same-sex partners. 

Whatever else Navy chaplain Kay Reeb may have done, she surely did not present the couple with a valid New Jersey marriage license at the conclusion of the ceremony.  The fact that the event took place on a military base changes nothing, for military bases within a state are, in these matters, governed by local state law.  And the Defense of Marriage Act, whose spirit if not its letter would be broken by any same-sex ceremony of “marriage” occurring under federal auspices, would seem to get in the way anyhow, even in the wake of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  (This is a matter with great collisions on the horizon in the military chaplaincies, to the detriment of religious freedom for many chaplains and troops, no matter what happens to DOMA, but especially if it falls.)

Certainly the chaplain could not have pretended to marry the couple under, say, the laws of New York, while standing in New Jersey.  So, since it is not possible that a non-New Jersey “wedding” took place inside New Jersey, what exactly happened?  Almost certainly, a “wedding” that was not a wedding—since it did not result in a marriage even under any locally-in-force positive law.  Perhaps liberal journalists are weary with calling such an event a “same-sex civil union commitment ceremony,” and want to anticipate a yet-unwon cultural victory simply by declaring it.  Or perhaps this ABC reporter just didn’t know better, and willingly called the event what its participants wanted her to call it, and what they earnestly want it to have been, even though it was not.

Or is it I am who missing something I should know better?  As I say, a head-scratcher.

UPDATE: I should have read the ABC report a third time before posting.  Just once, in McLaughlin’s story, the phrase “their civil union” appears in a reference to the couple’s legal relationship, presumably as it stands after the “wedding” and not before.  This is the only time in the story that the truth peeks through, that no wedding as that word is ordinarily understood took place at all.

Articles by Matthew J. Franck

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