Changes to the registration of Armed Forces Chapels for opposite and same sex couples’ marriage

National Inclusion Week is a national initiative dedicated to celebrating inclusion and taking action to create inclusive workplaces.

The week is a powerful opportunity for us to reaffirm Defence’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, while actively engaging in meaningful conversations and actions that can drive positive change within the department and beyond. One example of Defence’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is changes to processes to make it easier for same sex couples to marry in Armed Forces Chapels (AFCs).

Opposite sex couples’ marriage in AFCs has been widely available to military personnel for nearly 100 years, so most AFCs have already been registered for opposite sex couples to marry in.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Use of Armed Forces’ Chapels) Regulations 2014 allowed AFCs to also be registered for the marriage of same sex couples.

To date, only two AFCs in England and Wales have been registered for the marriage of same sex couples.

However, a recent change to the process for registration means that it is now easier for this to happen, giving more opportunities for same sex couples to get married in an AFC of their choice.

How has the registration process for an AFC changed

Previously, the Secretary of State (SofS) for Defence was responsible for registration of AFCs for marriage (opposite and same sex couples). However, as part of a review, Defence recognised that the involvement of the SofS in this process was not only daunting but meant that it could take too long and therefore, the process has been changed.

Responsibility for registering AFCs for all marriages has now been delegated to the Director of Armed Forces People Policy to help streamline the process and make it quicker and easier for those wishing to register an AFC for marriage.

By delegating the responsibility to the Director of Armed Forces People Policy, Defence is building on the Defence drive to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all. Same sex couples’ marriage in church has only been recognised in UK law within the last 10 years, and at present a very small number of AFCs are registered for same sex couples’ marriage. This new change in process aims to support same sex couples in registering for marriage and demonstrates Defence’s commitment to all members of its LGBTQ+ community.

Vice Admiral Phil Hally, Chief of Defence People said:

“Being an inclusive organisation gives us an edge over our adversaries. Making long-term, systemic changes, like offering same sex couples better processes and support when getting married in Armed Forces Chapels builds a Defence where all of our people feel represented and can flourish. If we are to meet the challenges set out in the Defence Command Paper Refresh 2023, we must attract and retain the people Defence needs from the full breadth of the society we serve and modernise in line with the recommendations of the Haythornthwaite Review of Armed Forces Incentivisation.”

Helen Helliwell, Director of Armed Forces People Policy:

“Levelling the opportunities for all of our people is really important in retaining and attracting the best people to work within Defence. This change in approach will better support the marriage of same sex couples in Armed Forces Chapels and bring their opportunities to more closely reflect those available to opposite sex couples.

“Ensuring that both the wishes of same sex couples, and religious freedoms of our chaplains are respected and supported, is a great honour. I look forward to increasing the number of Armed Forces Chapels available to same sex couples.”

What does it mean for Service personnel?

All Service personnel including members of the Reserve forces, as well as close family members and veterans, who wish to marry in an AFC (either in an opposite or same sex couples’ marriage) that is not yet registered can benefit from this policy change.

The biggest change to what Service personnel may already know or understand is a streamlining of the process for registration of an AFC for marriage, which should mean that the process is quicker than it has been previously.

Other than SofS delegating the responsibility in an attempt to streamline the process, the rest of the process remains the same.

For more information

An FAQs document has been created to provide a full overview of cover processes regarding marriage in Armed Forces Chapels policy and more detail on the recent changes.

For more information, or to talk through the process in detail, speak to your chaplain who will be able to advise on each stage of the process.

Our Executive Members

By @Cobseo 54 years ago

Afghanistan support

In light of recent events in Afghanistan, please find information and support resources here