With lesbians and gay men now serving openly in the US military, the next step is to ensure parity in employment conditions. One part of this is equal access to chaplaincy services. This has just come a little bit closer, with a Pentagon announcement that military chaplains will now be permitted to officiate at same-sex weddings – but only in the states where these are legally sanctioned, and where they are permitted by their religious denominations. The emphasis is also on “permitted”, not “required”. That’s quite a small opening then: even in liberal Massachusetts, there will be no military gay weddings by Catholic priests, and none by United Church chaplains in Virginia. Even where church regulations and state law agree in permitting same-sex nuptials, the couple’s desire to walk down the aisle in church could still be stymied by a local chaplain who is not willing to play ball.
It remains an important step though for at least some servicemen and women. As marriage equality spreads to more states and to more churches (as it will).
The Pentagon will permit military chaplains to perform same-sex marriage in states that legally recognize gay marriage, it said Friday.
Defense Department guidance issued to military chaplains said they may participate in ceremonies on or off military bases in states that recognize gay unions. Chaplains are not required to officiate at same-sex weddings if doing so is counter to their religious or personal beliefs, the guidance said.
And regardless of the Pentagon guidance, military chaplains will still need to take cues from their religious order, said Gary Pollitt, spokesman for the Military Chaplains Association.
“Just because the Department of Defense says this can happen, the chaplains perform such rites in keeping with their ecclesiastical authorization. Period,” Pollitt said.
When a similar announcement was made by the US Navy back in April, it was met with howls of outrage from conservative commentators, and from Republican politicians, who promised to introduce legislation to prevent it. In June, the Navy revoked the earlier guidelines, “pending additional legal and policy review” and closer coordination with the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard.
Now that DADT is officially history, it was inevitable that the question would arise once more. Conservative opposition will once again be intense – but will get nowhere, as even some GOP lawmakers are realising that discrimination is no longer a guaranteed vote-getter, and in some districts may even be a political liability.
Next stop: equal access to military family housing.
- Harmodius & Aristogiton: Gay Soldiers at the Foundation of Democracy
- The Sacred Band of Thebes: Gay lovers as the military ideal
- Gays in the Military: Japan
- ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal Countdown: The End Is Near! (huffingtonpost.com)
- US: military chaplains may perform same-sex unions (sfgate.com)
- U.S. military prepares for end of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ – The Washington Post (itsaqueerworld.blogspot.com)
- Military chaplains allowed to perform same-sex weddings (cnn.com)
- AP Exclusive: World War II vet, ousted for being gay, finally receives ‘honorable’ discharge – The Washington Post (itsaqueerworld.blogspot.com)
- Navy officer weds partner as gay ban ends – CBS News (itsaqueerworld.blogspot.com)