Same-sex weddings on Navy bases under review

Wed May 11, 2011 5:02pm EDT
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By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Military lawyers are reviewing whether to permit same-sex marriages on Navy bases -- and allowing chaplains to officiate -- once a ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces is lifted, a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday.

The review comes after Rear Admiral M.L. Tidd, the chief Navy chaplain, on Tuesday abruptly suspended a memorandum he issued last month that would have eventually opened the door to same sex weddings or civil unions on Navy bases in states where it is legal.

The memo prompted a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus from 63 Republican congressmen who questioned whether it would violate a 1996 federal law -- the Defense of Marriage Act -- which defines "marriage" as a legal union between one man and one woman.

"Offering up federal facilities and federal employees for same-sex marriages violates DOMA, which is still the law of the land and binds our military, including chaplains," the letter said.

"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," it said.

Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said news coverage of Tidd's memo and the subsequent letter from Republican lawmakers had prompted a discussion between Defense Department and Navy attorneys that led to a decision to review the issue.

"That memo itself raised questions about policy and legal implications that require further review," Lapan said. "So that's why the memo was suspended, until that review can be conducted."

It was unclear how the Navy review would affect the Army and other branches of the U.S. armed services.   Continued...