The Department of Defense issued two memos today clarifying that military chaplains can marry gay and lesbian soldiers and the couples can get married on base if the state allows same-sex marriage.
In one memo dated Sept. 30, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness Clifford Stanley writes military chaplains "may participate or officiate any private ceremony" provided such ceremonies aren't prohibited by local or state law.
The guidance further clarifies chaplains are "not required" to participate in a private ceremony if doing so is contrary to their religious beliefs. Additionally, the guidance says a chaplain's participation in such ceremonies doesn't constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by the Pentagon.
In another memo dated Sept. 21, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson says the determination of using a military base facility for private functions should be made on "a sexual-orientation neutral basis" as long as such use isn't prohibited by local or state laws.
After the memos were released, Freedom to Marry president Evan Wolfson put out a statement saying, "Today's decision reflects the basic constitutional rights and respect for marriage that those serving our country, like all of us, deserve. Discrimination has no place in the military, or in marriage -- and of course people, gay or non-gay, should be able to celebrate their love and commitment in ceremonies without interference by the government. In the months ahead, Americans will see gay service-members getting married, surrounded by loved ones, and will get an even better understanding of how the freedom to marry helps families while hurting no one, increasing support for an end to marriage discrimination."