Military chaplains may participate in or officiate same-sex marriages as long as such ceremonies are not prohibited in the states where they reside, the Pentagon announced on Friday.
However, chaplains are not required to do so, the memo from Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said. “Just because the Department of Defense says this can happen, the chaplains perform such rites in keeping with their ecclesiastical authorization. Period,” Gary Pollitt, spokesman for the Military Chaplains Association, told the Washington Post.
According to the Washington Post:
Gay couples may get married in Washington, D.C. and six states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Maryland and several other states recognize same-sex marriages but do not grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Forty-one states have either laws or constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage.
The announcement from the Pentagon's personnel chief follows a similar, independent decision by the Navy in May regarding its chaplains, Fox News reports.
According to Stars and Stripes:
The Pentagon had previously taken the position that same-sex ceremonies could occur once DADT was repealed. But in May, the department reversed itself and promised to study the issue further after a coalition of conservative lawmakers charged that the decision would violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 law defines marriage as existing between a man and a woman.
DoD’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy expired on Sept. 20.
(More from GlobalPost: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” set to run out)
“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,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told Stars and Stripes.
Not everyone welcomed the news. Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council issued a statement blasting the decision. "It is outrageous that only ten days after repeal of the law against homosexuality in the Armed Forces, the Defense Department is already pushing the military further down the slippery slope,” he said, according to Stars and Stripes. “The repeal law passed by the lame-duck Congress last year said nothing about authorizing same-sex 'weddings' on military bases or by military chaplains.”