Military Chaplains May Officiate Same-Sex Weddings

The Department of Defense gave the OK today

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First, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” gets repealed. And now the Department of Defense (DoD) has announced that military chaplains may officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies. For gay service members, this means they can have weddings performed in states where same-sex marriage is legal. The ceremonies can even be performed on military bases thanks to a new order.

“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,” writes Clifford L. Stanley, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, in a memo. “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 participating does not constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by the DoD.”

In another memo this month, the department said that military facilities are also now considered “sexual-orientation neutral.” For states where same-sex marriage is legal, this is obviously a big step for military couples, but that doesn’t mean conservatives and anti-gay groups aren’t already criticizing the decision, saying it violates DOMA – an issue that the Obama Administration refuses to acknowledge over constitutionality.

But other advocacy groups couldn’t be happier with the decision today.

“We are pleased the Department of Defense has made it clear that a military chaplain is allowed to perform any lawful ceremony that is consistent with his or her beliefs and is not required to perform a ceremony that is inconsistent with those beliefs,” says Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and an army veteran, in a statement. “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.”