Military Chaplains to perform wedding ceremoniesBreaking News, Top Highlights Friday, September 30th, 2011
The demise of the military’s discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which was rescinded Sept. 20, has opened up many possibilities for gay servicemembers, including the Pentagon’s decision to allow military chaplains to marry couples in the jurisdiction where they are legal.
Friday’s announcement was made via memos from top Pentagon officials, amidst a few regulations: the ceremonies must not be considered official Defense Department events, and wedding ceremonies may not violate local laws, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Jeh Johnson, general counsel of the Defense Department, explained, “private functions are not official activities of the Department of Defense, thus, the act of making DoD facilities available for private functions, including religious and other activities, does not constitute an endorsement of the activities by DoD.”
In a second memo, Clifford Stanley, undersecretary, further explained that wedding ceremonies would be allowed on military bases, except where local law would prohibit.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization, praised the pentagon’s decision.
“I applaud the Department of Defense for protecting the religious freedoms of all military chaplains,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As we move into a new era of open service, today’s decision by the Department of Defense ensures that all military families, including lesbian and gay military families, have equal access to military facilities.”
The Pentagon’s memos were void of the language “marriage” but officials said chaplains would not be in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act if they chose to refer to the union as a marriage.
“If you can find a chaplain, you will be able to get married [on a U.S. military base],” said a defense official.
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