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Rep. Bill Owens oppposes amendment banning gay marriage ceremonies on military installations


Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, voted against a pair of amendments to the defense authorization bill prohibiting gay marriage and “marriage-like” ceremonies on military installations and limiting reprimand for soldiers voicing moral or religious opposition to gay soldiers.

The amendments were added to the bill passed Thursday by the House Armed Services Committee. The marriage ceremony amendment passed 37-24, with voting mainly along party lines. The second amendment was designed to accommodate the rights of conscience of service members who are morally or religiously opposed to homosexuality.

Mr. Owens noted that military chaplains already had the right to refuse to perform a gay marriage, a right he supported. “It’s redundant,” he said. “If there’s no issue, why are you trying to pass a law to deal with it?”

Mr. Owens said the amendments were “an attempt in my view to send an ideological message rather than deal with an existing problem.”

The two amendments were introduced by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo.

“The president has repealed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and is using the military as props to promote his gay agenda,” Rep. Akin said.

The vote came the day after President Barack Obama voiced support for gay marriage in an interview with ABC News. Rep. Owens said similar proposals were raised to coincide with the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring gays from serving openly in the military. “It was not a surprise to see these pop up,” Rep. Owens said.

The amendments brought fierce debate.

In one exchange, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., questioned what would happen if a service member literally interpreted the Old Testament’s Leviticus, which calls homosexuality an abomination. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., disputed her contention that it was part of the Bible, saying the Old Testament is not the Bible.

The defense authorization bill will have to be approved by the full House before going up for debate in the Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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