New guidelines issued for Navy chaplains to perform gay marriages
Navy chaplains have been given clearance to perform same-sex marriages on the premises of military bases, according to a newly-released memo.
The April 13 memo was signed by the Navy’s Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark Tidd, and it will be enforced as soon as the Defense Department lifts a ban on openly gay people serving in the military, Reuters said.
However, some conservative members of congress say the memo violates another federal law, Reuters said, referring to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Reservations have also been cited regarding the possibility that the religious belief of the chaplain may not agree with the union of two same sex people in marriage.
The memorandum was released by the Navy chaplain primarily to announce updated training for chaplains which will respond to new requirements upon the repeal of the ”don’t ask don’t tell” policy which disallows openly gay people to serve in the Navy, according to the Navy Times.
The ban on gay men and lesbians has been enforced for 17 years. It was repealed in December but is still in effect, and will continue to be, until new rules have been put in place with the expectant changes.
The Defense Department training guidelines do not mention marriage ceremonies for gay couples, but neither do they prohibit it. The Defense Department is expected to recognize openly gay military service this summer, Navy Times said.
The memo states, “a chaplain may officiate a same-sex, civil marriage if it is conducted in accordance with a state that permits same-sex marriage or union. If the base is located in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, then base facilities may normally be used to celebrate the marriage,” Reuters reported.
It does not follow, however, that same-sex married couples will be granted the same benefits of health and housing that married couples between a man and a woman have, the AP reported.
Navy spokeswoman Lt. Alana Garas told Reuters, “[The memo] emphasizes repeatedly that chaplains will not be required to officiate same-sex weddings if it’s contrary to the tenets of their faith.”
DOMA at issue
Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo), who chairs the House Armed Services sea power subcommittee, said the new guidelines are in conflict with DOMA, which defines marriage as “a union between one man and one woman,” Reuters reported.
In a statement Akin said, “This new guidance from the Navy clearly violates the law. While a state may legalize same-sex marriage, federal property and federal employees, like Navy chaplains, should not be used to perform marriages that are not recognized by federal law,” Navy Times reported.
Akin’s statement was signed by 62 other congressmen as well. It said, “My colleagues and I are calling on the Secretary of the Navy to make sure that the Navy actually follows the law,” according to Reuters.