Navy Authorizes Chaplains to Perform Same-Sex ‘Marriages’ in Naval Chapels

May 9, 2011 - 3:05 AM

Navy Chapel

The dome of the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, home to 10 weekly church, wedding and funeral services attended by more than 100,000 people annually. (U.S. Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge)

(CNSNews.com) – Anticipating the elimination of the military ban on homosexuality, the Office of the Chief of Navy Chaplains has decided that same-sex couples in the Navy will be able to get married in Navy chapels, and that Navy chaplains will be allowed to perform the ceremonies -- if homosexual marriage is legal in the state where the unions are to be performed.

The advisory came in the form of an April 13 memo issued to all chaplains, in which the Chief of Navy Chaplains, Admiral Michael Tidd, said the Chaplain Corps was revising its Tier I training manuals, which had previously indicated that same-sex marriages are not authorized on federal property.

Instead, Tidd called for chaplains to comply with service-wide efforts underway to be more accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as the end of the military policy on homosexuality nears.

Citing "additional legal review" by Navy attorneys, the admiral said the Navy "has concluded that, generally speaking, base facility use is sexual orientation neutral.”

“If the base is located in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, then the base facilities may be used to celebrate the marriage,” the admiral’s directive states.

The admiral’s memo also gives chaplains permission to "marry" homosexual couples – but would not force them to perform ceremines.

“Regarding chaplain participation, consistent with the tenets of his or her religious organization, a chaplain may officiate a same-sex, civil marriage: if it is conducted in accordance with the laws of the state which permits same-sex marriages or union; and if the chaplain is, according to applicable state and local laws, otherwise fully certified to officiate that state’s marriages.”

Navy spokeswoman Alana Garas confirmed the change was ordered, but told CNSNews.com that the document “does not reflect a change in policy, but a change in Tier I training for Navy chaplains that looks forward to when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is removed”— something which will not happen, she said, until 60 days after the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify to Congress that repeal will not harm military readiness.

But Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is concerned that, in its haste to “hustle-in homosexuality,” the Navy may be violating federal law – the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Offering up federal facilities and federal employees for same-sex marriage violates DOMA, which is still the law of the land and is bound to the duties of our military, including chaplains,” Steve Taylor, communications director for Akin, told CNSNews.com.

“The administration and various states may be operating as if DOMA doesn't exist, but the Navy and Marine Corps and all the Armed Services are sworn to obey the law, which this new instruction violates,” he added.

Tom McClusky, senior vice president of government relations at the Family Research Council, agreed that the Navy is totally ignoring DOMA, part of which defines marriage for federal government purposes as being between one man and one woman.

“You’re talking about government facilities and government employees, so it would seem to be a direct violation of DOMA,” McClusky told CNSNews.com. “I’m not seeing a lot of wiggle room there.”

He said conservatives had warned months ago that the push to repeal the military ban on homosexuality would lead to efforts to introduce same-sex marriage -- but were dismissed at the time.

“This is what we thought was going to happen, and unfortunately now it's happening,” McClusky said.

“Unfortunately, the military is getting out in front on this issue and when you have a president who doesn’t believe the Defense of Marriage Act is a law he needs to follow, it’s no surprise that the military would follow his lead,” he added. “The president may think he’s above the law, but he’s not. If he has a problem with the Defense of Marriage Act, that’s something that he needs to address legislatively, not just by ignoring it.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), said the change in training was a “good example of the type of uncertainty and confusion created in the rush to change the previous policy.”

 “Trying to make sense of this issue, for example, is something that should have been thought out beforehand – assuming the administration was even serious about doing this efficiently, fairly and respectfully,” Hunter’s communications director Joe Kasper told CNSNews.com.

Hunter plans on offering an amendment to the annual defense bill to require that all of the chiefs of the armed services – not just the chairman -- would have to submit certification that removing the military ban on homosexuality wouldn’t harm unit cohesion and military order.

Four states plus the District of Columbia currently issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and New Hampshire.  Vermont recognizes civil unions. Maryland, New York and Rhode Island recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.