Navy suspends guidelines for same-sex marriages on bases

Following criticism from a group of Republican lawmakers, the Navy has abruptly suspended its guidelines for implementing the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" that would have allowed same-sex couples to get married on military bases in states where such unions are legal.

Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark Tidd said that his earlier instructions -- which would have allowed gay service members to exchange vows in base chapels with Navy chaplains performing the ceremony -- were suspended subject to further review. In a memo late on Tuesday, Tidd wrote that the guidelines were to be "suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination."

In his original memo, dated April 13, Tidd wrote that Navy chaplains could receive training to perform these same-sex marriage ceremonies. "Regarding the use of base facilities for same-sex marriages, legal counsel has concluded that, generally speaking, base facility use is sexual orientation-neutral," Tidd wrote. "This is a change to previous training that stated same-sex marriages are not authorized on federal property."

Navy chaplains may perform such ceremonies if they are "consistent with the tenets of his or her religious organization" and take place in states where same-sex unions are legal, Tidd's original guidelines stated.

The Navy and Defense Department counsels will be reviewing the guidelines, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan, as the memo had sparked political and legal questions. While all of the services are in the process of conducting training for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which had banned gay and lesbian service members from serving openly in the military, this aspect is the only one currently under review, Lapan said.

The decision to review the Navy's repeal guidelines comes on the heels of heavy criticism from Capitol Hill and ensuing media attention.

A group of 63 Republican lawmakers objected to the policy in a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus late last week. "Offering up federal facilities and federal employees for same-sex marriages violates [the Defense of Marriage Act], which is still the law of the land and binds our military, including chaplains," they wrote.

The Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, legally defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, is spearheading the effort to reverse the Navy's guidelines on same-sex marriage on bases. "This new guidance from the Navy clearly violates the law. While our President may not like this law, it is unbelievable that our Navy would issue guidance that clearly violates this law," Akin said in a statement. "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 plans to offer an amendment during the Armed Services Committee markup of the Defense authorization act Wednesday stipulating that military installations or other Defense Department property may not be used for marriage ceremonies that do not fall under DOMA's definition of marriage -- whether or not the state allows same-sex marriage. Akin's amendment would also bar any service member -- including a chaplain or civilian DOD employee -- from assisting in or performing wedding ceremonies not recognized under DOMA.

The military training to apply the DADT's repeal is expected to be completed this summer. The suspension means that Navy chaplains are training for repeal as they were before the April 13 memo.

"Training is continuing as planned, and when further guidance becomes available it will be distributed throughout the chaplain corps," Navy spokeswoman Lt. Alana Garas told National Journal. "Further guidance [about officiating same-sex marriages] will be available once policy and legal implications are considered."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.