House Approves Defense Bill with Hostile Amendments
May 26, 2011 by Ty Cobb, Senior Legislative Counsel
Today, the House passed the annual defense authorization bill, which included three anti-lesbian and gay amendments approved by the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month. The amendments attempt to slow the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and continue discrimination against lesbian and gay service members, as well as lesbian- and gay-affirming chaplains.
Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) authored an amendment that would prohibit the use of Department of Defense (DOD) facilities for marriages between same-sex couples, even where state law permits such marriages. The amendment would also prohibit military chaplains or civilian DOD employees from officiating at such marriages. This amendment goes well beyond the existing Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – it restricts the use of facilities by lesbian and gay service members, as well as prohibits chaplains from participating in marriage ceremonies that are in alignment with their faith traditions.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), who has turned out to be one of the most anti-LGBT members in the House, authored an amendment that would “reaffirm” the definition of marriage under DOMA. This amendment takes cheap political shots at lesbian and gay service members by reiterating the discriminatory language already contained in DOMA, even though the language of DOMA already applies to DOD.
Another unnecessary amendment, which was intentioned to delay repeal of DADT, was authored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA). This amendment would expand the DADT repeal certification process to include the service chiefs – even though the service chiefs have assured Congress on multiple occasions that Secretary of Defense would include their opinions in his decision to certify. Certification of for final repeal is expected this summer, so it is likely this provision will be moot before the defense authorization bill gets before the president.
While the defense authorization bill has passed through the Republican-led House with these three amendment attached, HRC will work closely with our Senate allies to ensure that discrimination against lesbian and gay service members continues its journey into the dustbin of history.