Pentagon: Military Chaplains May Perform Same-Sex Marriages

Memo appears to challenge DOMA’s authority

The Pentagon has released a guidance specifying that military chaplains may, in accordance to their beliefs, perform marriage ceremonies between same sex couples on military bases that are located in states that allow same sex marriage.

The memo states, “A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law. Further, a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs. Finally, a military chaplain’s participation does not constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by the Department of Defense.”

This document clarifies and activates the decision made in April by Navy Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd, that military bases are “sexual orientation neutral.”

Tidd’s statement was met with hostility from conservative parties and was criticized of being in direct conflict with the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996. Today’s guidance clarifies that, though the military is a federal organization, the marriages will be legalized under the state law in the state in which they are performed, but will not be recognized under federal law. This is, at least, a step in the right direction.

LGBT advocate, army veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis applauded the news. “The guidance issued today strikes the right balance between respecting the faith traditions of chaplains and affording all service members the same rights under current law. This is another logical step in the direction of full equality for gay and lesbian service members, and we hope the Department will continue to move down that path.”

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