Military chaplains and same-sex weddings

In a farewell event for Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Obama took some time to reflect on Mullen’s role in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“History will record that the tipping point towards this progress came when the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff went before Congress and told the nation that it was the right thing to do,” Obama said.

That’s true. It’s also true that the tipping point has changed more than just the ability of gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly.

The Pentagon will permit military chaplains to perform same-sex marriage in states that legally recognize gay marriage, it said Friday.

Defense Department guidance issued to military chaplains said they may participate in ceremonies on or off military bases in states that recognize gay unions. Chaplains are not required to officiate at same-sex weddings if doing so is counter to their religious or personal beliefs, the guidance said. […]

The decision validates a move made by the Navy in May that earned the ire of conservative critics and Pentagon observers, because Navy officials acted on their own instead of in tandem with other military services.

Is the struggle for equality, even in the military, over? No, it’s not.

But when the Defense Department is allowing military chaplains to officiate at same-sex weddings, we’re seeing real progress — progress that would have been unthinkable in the not too distant past.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.