Saturday, October 1, 2011

DADT Update: Military Chaplains Now Allowed to Perform Gay Weddings

Here is some news that already has social conservatives gnashing their teeth.  The Pentagon has issued guidelines allowing military chaplains the ability to perform wedding ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.  No chaplain will be required to officiate at any wedding.  This can only happen in states or communities where marriage equality is legal, such as Iowa, New York, or Washington D.C.  Additionally, these weddings can be held on Defense Department property. 

In the past, chaplains were forbidden from even having the option of officiating at marriage ceremonies.  It's assumed that all chaplains oppose homosexuality and gay families.  However, there are chaplains who belong to denominations like the United Church of Christ that actually support gay people and our families and who bless our marriages.  Those chaplains were banned from officiating at gay weddings in the past.  Now they have that option, either on- or off-base.

Predictably, anti-gay politicians and groups are flipping out and complaining that this permission slip violates the federal Defense of Marriage Act.  The Military dismisses such criticism:
DOMA does define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but it “does not limit the type of religious ceremonies a chaplain may perform in a chapel on a military installation,” nor does it prevent the government from extending certain privileges to same-sex couples — in this case, permitting gays and lesbians to use military facilities for wedding celebrations. Under DOMA, their marriages would still not be recognized by the Defense Department, nor would they entitle same-sex couples to all of the benefits afforded to their heterosexual counterparts.
So even though the DOD won't honor gay or lesbian families when it comes to benefits enjoyed by other military personnel and veterans, it will allow gay and lesbian servicemen the ability to access military chaplains -- if the chaplain agrees -- to perform private religious ceremonies -- assuming that the wedding is performed in a state that recognizes legal marriage equality.  This is religious liberty, to a point.  The very thing that the Right demands and yet seeks to deny for those whose religious beliefs differ from their own.

I haven't yet heard how this policy will affect those living in civil union/domestic partnership states like New Jersey, California, or Washington State.

In related new: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairmen Mike Mullen told NPR yesterday that there has been absolutely no reported negative feedback since DADT was officially repealed last month: "There haven't been any incidents.  In fact, the -- you know, after the initial significant publicity associated with that change, it's been pretty quiet... We need to move on."   Meanwhile, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich showed yesterday that he doesn't want to move on, indicating that he will seek to reverse DADT's repeal.

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