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OutServe Magazine | April 24, 2014

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Air Force Issues New LGBT Guidance to Chaplains

Air Force Issues New LGBT Guidance to Chaplains
Jonathan Mills

Simpson-Schick-weddingOn Sept. 3rd, 2013, the Air Force Chief of Chaplains provided official guidance to all commands that outlined policies regarding the treatment of LGBT couples. While some of it seems like a reasonable compromise between honoring the integrity of various religious beliefs and providing pastoral care for LGBT couples, other portions of the memo are blatantly discriminatory. To summarize the provisions, the Air Force states that:

  • Chaplains are advised to consult with their endorsers and commanders for issues in which they may find themselves unable to provide care for LGBT couples, based on those chaplains’ religious principles.
  • Chaplains who are unable to provide marriage seminar/counseling to LGBT couples are to refer those couples to other chaplains/installations or comparable civilian care.
  • Chaplains who welcome LGBT couples into marriage seminars/counseling are to notify their other couples/members of the participation of those LGBT couples.
  • Chaplains are required to notify their command if they choose to perform same-gender weddings, and remain at the discretion of their endorsing body in choosing whether or not to perform those weddings.
  • Chaplains remain at the discretion of their endorsing bodies in choosing whether or not to allow an LGBT service member to volunteer during services (choir, teaching, other leadership capacities).

The chaplain’s memo seems to begin and end with a commitment to honoring LGBT service members and their families, stating, “We remain committed to consistently providing religious and spiritual care to all,” yet some of the guidance issued seems to alienate some LGBT couples based on the sole discretion of various endorsing agencies. Why should chaplains who openly welcome LGBT families notify their straight members ahead of time of LGBT participation? And why should chaplains be required to notify their command of the performance of LGBT weddings? I applaud the Air Force’s initiative in providing more specific guidance to chaplains, but did they take it a step too far in outlining provisions that seem to discriminate against our LGBT service members?

Read the memo here.