Gay groups have cheered new guidance announced Friday that allows military chaplains to officiate the marriages of gay service members.

The decision comes 10 days after the end of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the policy that for 18 years banned gay and bisexual troops from serving openly.

In a memo issued this morning by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley, chaplains may officiate the marriage and civil union ceremonies of gay couples, including on a military installation.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of SLDN, cheered the news.

“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. We are also pleased that access to military facilities will be granted on a sexual-orientation-neutral basis. 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,” said Sarvis in a statement.

“Today's decision reflects the basic constitutional rights and respect for marriage that those serving our country, like all of us, deserve,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. “Discrimination has no place in the military, or in marriage – and of course people, gay or non-gay, should be able to celebrate their love and commitment in ceremonies without interference by the government.”

Several lawmakers have previously objected to military chaplains officiating at gay unions, saying it would violate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that bans federal agencies from recognizing the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.