US military chaplains can perform gay wedding ceremonies in states where it is legal, the Pentagon said Friday, 10 days after the end of a ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces.
So far, gay marriage is legal in six US states, but the federal government does not recognize it, meaning that the partners of gay soldiers do not have the same benefits as those in heterosexual marriages, such as health insurance.
"A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law," a Pentagon memo said.
The chaplain is however "not required to participate in or officiate any private ceremony if doing so be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs."
The Department of Defense memo also said that a military chaplain's participation in a private ceremony "does not constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by the DoD."
Gay marriage is recognized by the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, as well as in the District of Columbia.
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which was adopted in 1993, required those in the military to conceal their homosexuality or risk being discharged. About 14,000 service members were kicked out of the military under the rule.
The US Senate voted to repeal the controversial law in December. The prohibition on openly gay rights expired on September 20.