U.S. Navy chaplains cleared to perform gay marriages

Posted at 05/10/11 11:20 PM

WASHINGTON, USA - The U.S. Navy has authorized its chaplains to perform same-sex marriages on military bases once the ban on gays in the military is lifted, but some members of Congress argue the authorization violates another federal law.

An April 13 memo from the chief of Navy chaplains concerning training revisions said "a chaplain may officiate a same-sex, civil marriage if it is conducted in accordance with a state that permits same-sex marriage or union."

"If the base is located in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, then base facilities may normally be used to celebrate the marriage," the memo read.

"There's been no change in policy, the only change that occurred was in training," Navy spokeswoman Lieutenant Alana Garas said in a telephone interview.

"It (the memo) emphasizes repeatedly that chaplains will not be required to officiate same-sex weddings if it's contrary to the tenets of their faith," Garas added.

She also said that current policy remained in place until the eventual end of "don't ask, don't tell."

The 17-year-old ban that prohibited gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces was repealed in December. But the policy remains in effect while new rules are being developed.

Representative Todd Akin, chairman of a U.S. House subcomittee that oversees Navy and Marine Corps programs, said the new Navy guidance violates a federal law that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

The Missouri Republican and 62 other members of Congress have sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy calling for the service to obey the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

"While a state may legalize same-sex marriage, federal property and federal employees, like Navy chaplains, should not be used to perform marriages that are not recognized by federal law," Akin, a Missouri Republican, said in a statement.

"My colleagues and I are calling on the Secretary of the Navy to make sure that the Navy actually follows the law."