Republicans Limit Gay And Lesbian Rights In Defense Bill

Hours after President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, Republicans in the House took two steps back for gays and lesbians and approved two measures limiting their rights. The amendments, passed in the House Armed Services Committee, would “protects religious freedom of military chaplains and the conscience and moral principals of service members who are opposed to homosexuality” and prohibit same-sex marriages or a “marriage-like ceremony” that involves a same-sex couples “from being held at any military installation or on any property owned, rented or under the control of the Defense Department.” The measures are now part of the House’s $642 billion National Defense Authorization Act.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), a sponsor of so-called “conscience” measure — which may turn into a “licence to bully” gay and lesbian servicemembers — claimed, “The president has repealed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and is using the military as props to promote his gay agenda.” Akin is running for Senate in Missouri.

Indeed, his claims are dubious at best. Under current policy, chaplains can opt out from performing same-sex ceremonies and have publicly stated that they continue to conduct “religious ceremonies and rites in keeping with the canons [or beliefs, doctrine, policies] of the religious faith group that endorses that chaplain.”

The inclusion of anti-gay measures in the defense bill also represents a reversal for House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), who upon winning back the chairmanship in November of 2010, pledged to pass clean defense bills that were “not weighed down” by social issues. “Congress should pass clean legislation — without the liberal social agenda items Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid have insisted on attaching in the run-up to the election,” McKeon said, referring to amendments to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and enact hate crimes protections. He added: “The National Defense Authorization Act — especially in wartime — should be focused on one core equity: caring and providing for the men and women in uniform and their families.”