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The Daily Fray

Navy Grapples with Gay Marriage Ceremony Policy

May 11, 2011

On Monday night, the news broke that Rear Admiral M.L. Tidd, the chief Navy chaplain had cleared all chaplains to perform gay marriages. After all, now that Don't Ask Don't Tell has been repealed, it'll be fine to be a gay serviceman or woman once the ban is formally lifted. And that means you get to have a chaplain marry you, the thinking goes. The order, as written, permits same-sex marriage or civil union ceremonies in states where they are legal. In addition, it permits the use of navy bases located in those states for the services.

But it could never be that easy. On Tuesday, a group of 63 Republican congressmen sent a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, questioning the legality of the move. "Offering up federal facilities and federal employees for same-sex marriages violates DOMA [the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act], which is still the law of the land and binds our military, including chaplains," the letter read, according to Reuters. 

Back in February, President Barack Obama ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to stop defending legal challenges to DOMA. And in April, the law firm hired by House Republicans to defend the law withdrew from the case. DOMA may not be long for the statute books, but the Republican letter reminded the Navy noted, "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." So, for now, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan, the order clearing chaplains to perform gay marriages has been rescinded.

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