May 11, 2011 at 12:41 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Navy guidance revoked allowing same-sex marriages on base: report

The Pentagon has revoked earlier Navy guidance stating that base facilities could be used for same-sex marriage ceremonies and chaplains could choose to officiate such unions, according to the Washington Post.

The decision abrogates a memo dated April 13 in which Navy Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark Tidd issues guidance outlining the policy change with regard to same-sex marriage ceremonies. The memo invoked the ire of social conservatives who said the guidance was in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act.

According to the Post, Tidd reversed course late Tuesday by saying he’s suspending his guidance “pending additional legal and policy review” and closer work with the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. The Pentagon didn’t immediately respond to confirm the reporting.

Despite the rollback of the guidance, military officials reportedly said Tuesday the Pentagon may in the future allow gay troops to use base chapels for same-sex marriages ceremonies in states that recognize such unions after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is enacted.

The decision could change the debate during the House Armed Services Committee markup on Wednesday of major Pentagon budget legislation. Republican lawmakers were expected to introduce amendments that would clarify that the U.S. military must follow the Defense of Marriage Act, which federal recognition of same-sex marriage, even in the wake of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) was set to introduce an amendment saying marriages are allowed to be performed on bases when they comply with DOMA. Similarly, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) was expected to introduce an amendment stating that DOMA applies to Defense Department regulations and policies.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether these lawmakers still intend to introduce these amendments during the markup of the fiscal year 2012 defense authorization bill. Hartlzer’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment late Tuesday.

Steve Taylor, an Akin spokesperson, said his boss “may still offer” his amendment during the House Armed Services Committee’s consideration of defense budget legislation.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, disparaged lawmakers for taking on this issue when he said other more pressing matters are on the table.

“At a time when the economy still needs attention, Osama Bin Laden was just killed, and revolution and conflict continue to rage across a fragile Middle East, having lawmakers spend valuable and limited time on whether a few gay couples may or may not use a Navy facility for a private ceremony at some point in the future is just plain silly,” Nicholson said. “The Navy was certainly within its right to establish this policy, and the services should not be subjected to distracting pressure from reactionaries simply because they seek to treat all personnel equally and fairly.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the Navy had the guidance right the first time when it determined that the use of base facilities for marriage should be sexual orientation neutral.

“Hopefully, the matter will be reviewed again by calmer heads with a focus on the law, not on the irrational fears of opponents who want to interject the gay marriage debate into the defense spending bill where it does not belong,” Sarvis said. “SLDN stands by its earlier analysis that the Navy’s guidance was both ‘prudent and correct’ and no chaplain is being forced to marry anyone on or off base.”

Sarvis later added that he’s confident that “the ‘additional legal and policy review’ promised by the Navy will lead to the same result” as the one announced in April.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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