Wednesday 21 March 2018

Defence Forces to let gay staff wed on military bases

Same-sex couples can avail of same marriage privileges as their heterosexual counterparts

Bride and joy: Lt Grace Fanning marrying Carol Brady Photo: Evelyn McNamara
Bride and joy: Lt Grace Fanning marrying Carol Brady Photo: Evelyn McNamara
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Gay members of the Defence Forces can now apply to get married on military bases, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Serving members of the Army can also host their wedding function in the standard 'officers mess' - the military dining hall attached to the standard barracks.

However, there are currently no facilities for an exclusively civil marriage ceremony - for either heterosexual or homosexual couples - within defence force precincts.

The same-sex referendum was carried one year ago this weekend, and an Army spokesman confirmed there is no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Defence Force members can get married in uniform with an Army chaplain presiding. Approximately 10 heterosexual couples get married annually in military compounds.

The first gay marriage involving Defence Force personnel took place earlier this month.

Naval Service Lieutenant, Grace Fanning, married her partner, Carol Brady, a nurse, at a ceremony in the Riverside Hotel in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. It is believed she was the first lesbian member of either the Army, Navy, or Air Corps, to get married.

During the ceremony, eight of Lieutenant Fanning's naval service colleagues provided a guard of honour.

Last August, speaking at the launch of a new recruitment drive, former defence minister Simon Coveney said he would like to see a military that "fully represents" modern Ireland in all its dimensions.

In a statement to the Sunday Independent, a spokesman for the Defence Forces confirmed that any member can apply to their relevant commanding officer, requesting they marry in a "military installation".

He stressed there is commitment to full equality among all its personnel, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

"There are no restrictions or limitations on subsequent career advancement because of sexual identity," he added.

A well-placed source said gay military personnel can also book an officers' mess for their wedding reception.

"There's nothing preventing them from doing so. In any case, a commander couldn't turn them down, even if he wanted to. We see diversity not as political correctness, but as a way of strengthening the organisation," he stressed.

It is understood restrictions on gay members joining the Defence Forces were lifted in 1993, when Ireland officially passed legislation which finally decriminalised homosexuality.

PDFORRA general secretary Gerry Rooney, who represents members of the Defence Forces, said he is satisfied major strides have been made within the organisation with regards to gay members.

"If gay personnel wish to get married on a military barracks, of course they should be allowed to do so," he said.

"I think the Defence Forces have come a long way and LGBT soldiers, sailors, and air crew, are accepted."

Davin Roche, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network's (Glen) director of workplace diversity, said the organisation has being working with the Defence Forces in this area.

"We are helping them ensure their HR policies are fully inclusive of their LGBT staff.There are plans to establish an LGBT network within the Defence Forces, and that would certainly be a positive step."

In a statement, the Department of Defence pointed out none of its properties are currently registered for the solemnising of civil marriage.

There are no plans to register properties for this function, it added.

Sunday Independent

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