The US Navy is planning to allow chaplains to conduct gay marriages on its bases once the ban on openly gay soldiers is lifted this summer.

The move would allow chaplains to perform the ceremonies in states which allow the practice.

An April 13th memo from Navy head chaplain Rear Adm Mark Tidd says: “Consistent with the tenets of his or her religious organisation, a chaplain may officiate a same-sex, civil marriage: if it is conducted in accordance with a state that permits same-sex marriage or union; and if that chaplain is, according to the applicable state and local laws, otherwise fully certified to officiate that state‚Äôs marriages.”

The memo, leaked to a conservative website, added: “Regarding the use of base facilities for same-sex marriages, legal counsel has concluded that, generally speaking, base facility use is sexual orientation-neutral. This is a change to previous training that stated same-sex marriages are not authorised on federal property.”

Some politicians have complained that the change will violate the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts federal recognition of marriage to that of a man and a woman.

Todd Akin, a Republican representative from Missouri, has secured more that 60 signatures from fellow lawmakers on a petition against the plans.

He said: “While a state may legalise same-sex marriage, federal property and federal employees, like Navy chaplains, should not be used to perform marriages that are not recognised by federal law.”

Yesterday, the Pentagon responded that the Defense of Marriage Act “does not limit the type of religious ceremonies a chaplain may perform in a chapel on a military installation”.