(WASHINGTON) — The Navy has abruptly reversed course on new guidelines that would have eventually allowed same-sex couples to wed on its bases — with Navy chaplains performing the ceremony — after “don’t ask, don’t tell” is officially repealed.
In a memo released late Tuesday, chief Navy chaplain Mark Tidd said his previous instructions, part of the military’s ongoing effort to revise its policies before lifting the ban on openly gay service members, were “suspended until further notice pending additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination.”
A Navy spokesman declined to elaborate on reasons for the move. But it follows mounting pressure from a group of 63 congressional Republicans who objected to the policy change in a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus late last week.
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Calif., who is leading the opposition, plans to introduce an amendment to a House armed services bill that would bar Pentagon employees — or facilities — from being used for marriage ceremonies not recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Navy had said allowing gay service members to exchange vows in base chapels and other places used to celebrate marriage was consistent with federal law so long as the ceremonies occurred in states where same-sex marriage is legal.
“Legal counsel has concluded that, generally speaking, base facility use is sexual orientation neutral,” Tidd wrote in a memo April 13.
Navy chaplains could also officiate in marriage ceremonies if they’re consistent with their religious beliefs and comply with state and local laws in which they are performed, he said.
How to handle same-sex marriages by service members is one of several issues the Pentagon is weighing as it prepares to put in place a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which President Obama signed into law in December. The policy is still in effect until 60 days after Obama and the Pentagon certify the armed forces are ready for the change.
Officials expect certification could happen as soon as this summer.
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