Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) is departing the House at the end of this year, but he’s trying to force some of his odious anti-gay rhetoric into law before he goes. Earlier this year, he proposed an amendment to the defense budget that would create a “license to bully” for military personnel, essentially guaranteeing that anybody who has a problem with LGBT people can’t be disciplined for it, even if they’re engaging in blatant discrimination or harassment.
The conference is being negotiated by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), both of whom opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and have substantial anti-gay records. When McKeon assumed leadership of the House Armed Services Committee, he pledged to pass clean defense bills that were “not weighed down” by social issues, but for the past two years, he has done just the opposite, supporting anti-gay measures like Akin’s and others. Though none of the measures advanced by the House last year survived conference with the Senate, a House Democratic aide says McCain and McKeon are “pushing pretty hard” to get Akin’s through this year.
OutServe-SLDN’s Allyson Robinson points out that Akin’s measure would foster the kind of unit cohesion problems Republicans incorrectly claimed DADT repeal would cause:
ROBINSON: As a former military commander, I can tell you that allowing any service member to openly discriminate against a comrade in this way will compromise good order and discipline — the very thing supporters of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ falsely claimed was going to happen back when we repealed the law. The fact is, there are already strong protections for all service members, including chaplains, in place, and all this provision would do is create a license to discriminate. The next Secretary of Defense should not be saddled with a law that makes it harder for small unit commanders in the field to lead their troops.
Conference negotiations for the defense budget bill have been underway for several days already, and it’s unclear when they will conclude. Hopefully Congress will find a way to support the military without endorsing mistreatment of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual troops proudly serving their country.