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.