Will Behrens and Sergeant Erwynn Umali marry (Pic: Jeff Sheng)

US lawmakers have passed an amendment that aims to ban same-sex marriage on military bases and bar military chaplains from officiating these ceremonies.

The provision to outlaw military funding from being used in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was included by Republican Representative Steve King in a 2013 military funding bill.

King’s efforts were spurred by the high profile wedding of Air Force Technical Sergeant Erwynn Umali and his fiancé Will Behrens at the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst military base in New Jersey last month – the first-ever gay wedding on a US military base.

Critics have pointed out, however, that military funds have never been used for same-sex marriages on military bases, including in Umali and Behrens’s wedding.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which fights for LGBT military personnel’s rights, commented that the amendment would not achieve what King hoped it would and was a waste of time.

“This language put forth by Congressman King would do nothing new. No funds can ever be spent in contravention of federal law,” said SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.

“Clearly, Congressman King doesn’t understand what the Defense of Marriage Act actually does. It does not prohibit a chaplain from performing a same-sex ceremony that is consistent with the tenets of his or her faith, and it does not prevent the use of military facilities for private religious ceremonies.”

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act bars the federal government from recognising or granting federal benefits to same-sex couples married in states where such marriage are legal.

DOMA is currently being challenged in the courts as being unconstitutional and discriminatory. The Obama administration, which supports the law’s repeal, has refused to defend the law in court.

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