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House Republicans Push For Another Military ‘License To Discriminate’

By Zack Ford on June 5, 2013 at 2:57 pm

"House Republicans Push For Another Military ‘License To Discriminate’"

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Once again, Republican lawmakers are trying to use the National Defense Authorization Act as an opportunity to enshrine a “license to discriminate” in the military. Last year, a watered-down version of previous “conscience clause” proposals was included in the bill, which President Obama condemned as “unnecessary and ill-advised.” The new proposal would make it easier for servicemembers to get away with anti-gay bullying, regardless of what impact it might have on unit cohesion.

The amendment comes from Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) and makes a few subtle but troubling tweaks to the original text of the conscience clause. The rhetoric change would make it harder for authority figures to discipline servicemembers for anti-gay bullying or discrimination within the ranks:

ORIGINAL: Requires the Armed Forces to accommodate the beliefs of a service member and chaplain reflecting the service member’s or chaplain’s conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, and in so far as practicable, would prohibit use of such beliefs as the basis for any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training or assignment. The protection does not protect the speech or conduct of an individual, and preserves the authority to take disciplinary or administrative actions that threaten good order and discipline.

AMENDMENT: Except in cases of military necessity, the Armed Forces shall accommodate the beliefs, actions, and speech of a service member and chaplain reflecting the service member’s or chaplain’s conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, and in so far as practicable, would prohibit use of such beliefs, actions, or speech as the basis for any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training or assignment. The protection does not protect the speech or conduct of an individual, and preserves the authority to take disciplinary or administrative actions that actually harm good order and discipline.

The amendment extends the protections to “actions and speech,” suggesting that servicemembers could go much further in promoting their anti-gay beliefs without fear of discipline. More disturbingly, this provision suggests that no disciplinary action could be taken until expression of a belief “actually harms,” suggesting that much greater levels of anti-gay of harassment could be tolerated.

There has been no evidence that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has in any way limited the beliefs, actions, or speech of any servicemember. Nevertheless, this is the third year in a row that House Republicans have attempted to promote and protect homophobia in the armed services under the guise of conscience protections. None of these lawmakers has ever provided any evidence that allowing more anti-gay sentiment will improve unit cohesion or morale.

Update

The House Armed Services Committee voted 33-26 to approve Fleming’s amendment.

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