Col. Timothy Wagoner has been an Air Force chaplain for 20 years, serving a denomination — the Southern Baptists — that rejects relationships for same-sex couples.
Yet here he was at the chapel he oversees, watching supportively as an airman and his male partner celebrated a civil union ceremony.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Wagoner said at the McGuire Air Force Base chapel, days later. “I don’t feel I’m compromising my beliefs ... I’m supporting the community.”
Wagoner didn’t officiate at the ceremony — he couldn’t go quite that far. But his very presence at the gathering was a marker of how things have changed for active-duty clergy in the nine months since the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” law was repealed and gay people could serve openly.
Prior to repeal, various conservative groups and individuals — including many conservative retired chaplains — warned that repeal would trigger an exodus of chaplains whose faiths consider homosexual activity to be sinful. In fact, there’s been no significant exodus — perhaps two or three departures of active-duty chaplains linked to the repeal. Moreover, chaplains or their civilian coordinators from a range of conservative faiths told The Associated Press they knew of virtually no serious problems thus far involving infringement of chaplains’ religious freedom or rights of conscience.