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2 lawmakers denounce same-sex ceremony on La. base

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MICHAEL KUNZELMAN | June 6, 2012 06:20 PM EST | AP

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NEW ORLEANS — Two Republican congressmen on Wednesday denounced a same-sex ceremony held at the Army's Fort Polk training base in Louisiana, saying it violated Defense Department policy.

Following last year's repeal of its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the Defense Department said chaplains at military installations can officiate any private ceremony, as long as it's not prohibited by state and local laws. Louisiana law does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.

Fort Polk spokesman Scott Stearns said the two women took part in a commitment ceremony last month. Everyone at the base chapel understood it was not a marriage ceremony, he said.

U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said in a statement the "marriage-like" ceremony performed by an Army chaplain shouldn't have been allowed on the base. U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., claims the ceremony violated Defense Department policy.

Akin sponsored a measure approved by the House last year that would prohibit military installations from being used to "officiate, solemnize or perform a marriage or marriage-like ceremony involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman." The Senate didn't approve the legislation.

"This appears to be a case where political agenda has trumped the rule of law, which is absolutely unacceptable," Akin said in a statement.

A spokesman for Fleming said the congressman's office learned of the ceremony from "constituent contact."

"The liberal social experiment with our military continues," Fleming said. "My frustration is compounded by the fact that a social agenda, which has nothing to do with military readiness or our national defense, is being imposed on our men and women in uniform."