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Chaplains won't perform same-sex ceremonies at Utah AFB

HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- Utah's recent change in marriage law has propelled Hill Air Force Base to become one of the few military installations in the country to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies to be performed.

As of Monday afternoon, no same-sex marriages had occurred at Hill and none were scheduled, said base spokesman George Jozens.

But Jozens confirmed such ceremonies will be allowed at Hill, which has more than 20,000 military and civilian personnel.

The Department of Defense allows same-sex marriage ceremonies on installations in states that recognize gay marriage, but with the highest concentration of U.S. military installations in southern states that ban such unions, few brides and grooms have gotten to wear their dress uniforms in a same-sex ceremony and walk under an archway of sabres or rifles.

The Pentagon first allowed military chaplains to participate in private same-sex-marriage ceremonies on or off military installations in October 2011, shortly after the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays serving openly in the military was repealed.

The same-sex marriage ceremonies must not be official Defense Department events and can't be held in violation of local laws.

Jozens said chaplains at Hill cannot administer same-sex marriages, because their denominations don't allow it, but an individual authorized to use the base's chapel facilities would reserve the chapel for a same-sex union.

"They would have to provide their own minister whose denomination allows their chaplain or pastor to perform same-sex unions," Jozens said.

In addition, judges, mayors and some other government entities may legally perform same-sex unions.

"Team Hill is committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs," said Hill Chaplain Lt. Col. Sherrol James. "The Team Hill Chapel is here to assist military and civilian Airmen in all faiths and beliefs."

Utah became the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage when federal Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down the state's Amendment 3 this month. That's not to say same-sex couples will be a new phenomenon at Hill.

Master Sgt. Angela Shunk and Tech Sgt. Stacey Shunk were transferred to Hill from Aviano Air Base, Italy, earlier this year as the first same-sex couple to receive what the military calls a joint spouse assignment.

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