Globe Editorial

Navy weddings: Open chapel doors to all

May 14, 2011

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“In the Navy,’’ the song goes, you can “join your fellow man.’’ But you can’t yet marry him, because of the misguided reversal of a new policy that would have allowed same-sex couples to use military facilities for weddings.

The policy, unveiled in April, would have applied only to chapels in states where same-sex marriage is legal, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut, and it would not have required chaplains who objected to perform the ceremonies.

But even that was too much for conservative critics, who claim that the guidelines ran counter to federal law that prohibits recognition of same-sex marriage. The Navy scuttled the policy on Tuesday after 63 Republican congressmen complained, saying it would review the matter with the other military branches instead.

The complaint stinks of mean-spirited grandstanding, intended to punish a small number of couples just to score political points. Gay sailors in states with same-sex marriage — whether crewmembers at the USS Constitution, or submariners in Connecticut — have a legal right to marry. Denying them access to chapels available to other sailors is both discriminatory and a breach of basic courtesy.

With last year’s vote to repeal the ban on gays serving openly, overdue change is coming to all branches of the military. The Navy’s initial impulse to accommodate same-sex weddings was correct: when it comes to equality among service members, there is no need to wait.