The Commonwealth Blog

Navy Flip-Flopping on Marriage?

May 25, 2011 @ 4:42 PM

By James Dohnert

Navy officials recently changed course on guidance that would have allowed for same-sex marriages on military bases. In a memo last month, Chief of Chaplains Rear Admiral M.L. Tidd outlined guidance that would have allowed for gay and lesbian marriage ceremonies to be held in Naval facilities in states that allow same-sex unions. But the Navy suspended movement on the matter after critics warned that the plan would have violated the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"There was some attention on the Hill," Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters Wednesday morning. "That raised the issue so that the (Pentagon) legal counsel then again took a look [and] determined it needed further review."

The Navy’s sudden change of heart ignited emotions on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate, with supporters of the guidance calling for congressional intervention and some opponents even going as far as to call the issue “silly”.

"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 policy makers 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," Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson told CNN.

But despite the criticism, supporters such as the head of the Center for Military Readiness, Elaine Donnelly, are calling for immediate action, “"Congress should not be misled by the Navy's equivocation. This weather-vane policy is likely to change back as soon as all the branches of service get on board and Congress looks the other way.”

While it is unclear what tactics the other branches of the armed services are planning going forward, it remains an issue fully within their purview according, to Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz: "The Navy was right in their analysis last month that nothing stands in the way of operating facilities without discrimination, and further review will no doubt validate that position."

But what do you think? Should gay and lesbian soldiers be allowed to use Naval facilities for same-sex marriage ceremonies? Is the issue a pressing one? Add your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Also be sure to check out upcoming Commonwealth Club events like these:

Jul 12 2011, 6:00 p.m.
Same-Sex Marriage and Its Equivalents: Recent Developments and Likely Future Trends
Civil Rights Attorney Fredrick Hertz Hertz summarizes recent developments and offers a framework for understanding the changing world of same-sex marital law.