The Navy is revoking guidance to its chaplains that would have allowed same-sex marriages at military chapels once the ban on gays serving openly in the military is lifted.
In an April 13 memo, Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd, the Navy’s chief of chaplains, said that same-sex marriages would be permitted at military chapels in states that recognize same-sex marriages once the gay ban ended.
Tidd said in his April memo that Navy chaplains would not be required to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies if it was inconsistent with religious beliefs and that gay marriages could occur on base because Navy lawyers had concluded that “generally speaking, base facility use is sexual orientation neutral.”
At the time Tidd said the guidance was prompted by questions raised by chaplains during mandatory training sessions about the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
But he revoked the guidance late Tuesday, saying he was suspending it “pending additional legal and policy review” and closer coordination with the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said Wednesday that media coverage and complaints from Capitol Hill prompted military lawyers to review Tidd’s guidance.
“Legal counsel looked at it and determined it needed further review,” Lapan said at a briefing with reporters.
Lapan said Defense Department lawyers will determine whether policy on holding same-sex marriages at military chapels can be left up to each service to determine or requires military-wide legal guidance.
The Defense Department may still eventually permit gay troops to use military chapels in states that recognize homosexual marriages for same-sex weddings after President Obama lifts the ban on openly gay service members known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” military officials said Tuesday night. The asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
The Navy’s training programs for chaplains and sailors regarding the ban’s repeal will continue as scheduled, a Navy spokeswoman said Tuesday night.
The Defense Department has provided the military services with “general training material,” Lapan said, but each of them has “some latitude in training materials and methods.”
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called Tidd’s guidance in the April memo prudent and correct, noting that chaplains can still decline to perform gay marriages just as they are free today to do so with respect to any marriage.
The Family Research Council said on its Web site that permitting same-sex marriage at military chapels would make it “even more uncomfortable for men and women of faith to perform their duties” as military chaplains.
Elaine Donnelly, founder of the Center for Military Readiness and a vocal critic of ending the ban, said Tuesday that Tidd’s reversal proves the military hasn’t properly considered the consequences of lifting the gay ban.
“They don't know what they’re doing, they don’t have a clue,” she said late Tuesday.
Tidd’s decision “demonstrates what we’ve been saying all along — this isn’t leadership,” she said. “In this case, a senior officer issued something that is contrary to common sense, sound policy and the assurances given to Congress.”
Republican aides and activists for and against ending the ban expect Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) to introduce an amendment that would prohibit the use of Defense Department facilities for same-sex marriages, even if state laws permits them. The amendment would also bar military chaplains and other DOD personnel from officiating at gay marriages.
Another amendment expected to be introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) would expand the process of ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” by requiring Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen to obtain certifications from the heads of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy before lifting the ban.
The heads of the Army and Marine Corps last year expressed concerns about ending the ban during a wartime, but all five service chiefs said they didn’t believe they should have to join Obama, Gates and Mullen in certifying an end to the ban.
The amendments "represent a not-so-subtle attack upon the senior leadership of the Department of Defense," Sarvis said. The measures also "undermine the men and women in uniform who are undertaking with the highest degree of professionalism the very assignment they were given by the previous Congress."
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