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Activists Threaten Legal Action if Senate Drops Anti-Gay Amendments to Defense Budget

Activists Threaten Legal Action if Senate Drops Anti-Gay Amendments to Defense Budget

A group of religious conservatives have threatened legal action if Senate lawmakers do not pass the National Defense Authorization Act 2012 with amendments made by the Republican-controlled U.S. House that forbid Defense Department employees from participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies and the use of military spaces for such purposes. 

This, they say, is to protect chaplains and servicemembers and their right to object to same-sex partnerships, but the Department of Defense says this is unnecessary as the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell rule will not affect rights of freedom of expression as they currently stand in the military.

From the Washington Post:

The annual defense authorization bill, which sets military policy for the following year, passed the House on Thursday with bipartisan support. Among hundreds of spending and policy provisions, the language backed by activists would bar service members and civilian Defense Department workers from participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies on military property.

[..]

The Navy’s proposed policy would make it difficult for military chaplains to fulfill their dual obligations as religious leaders and service members, according to the leaders of 21 Christian organizations who wrote this week to the top chaplains for the Air Force, Army and Navy. The groups select and endorse military chaplains to represent their denominations.

“We are genuinely concerned that this might be a sign of things to come,” the leaders wrote, requesting explicit conscience protections for chaplains.

But Pentagon policies regarding service members’ individual expression and the free exercise of religion already exist, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.

“There will be no changes,” Lainez said in an e-mail. “In today’s military, people of different moral and religious values work, live and fight together; this is possible because they treat each other with dignity and respect.”

These assurances have not stopped the religious conservative legal group Alliance Defense Fund from openly declaring that it will sue if the amendments do not pass, with Austin Nimocks, senior counsel, quoted as saying: “If the Senate does not follow the House and protect chaplains and service members, we have no doubt that legal action will be required.”

The Alliance Defense Fund has not yet offered on what grounds they will sue or how they will prove that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allowances made for chaplains to perform same-sex marriages in states where it is legal — should they wish to — amounts to an abridgment of religious freedom of speech or conscience.

The amendments in question would serve to bolster restrictions created by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

One amendment that was offered by Representative Vicky Hartzier (R-Mo) would ban Department of Defense staff from participating in same-sex marriages.

This is in direct response to the Navy telling military chaplains in April that, if they so wished, they would be permitted to perform same-sex marriages in states that have legalized the unions, once the DADT policy is retired. The Navy quickly withdrew said guidance pending further legal advice after religious conservative groups raged that this violates the Defense of Marriage Act.

The other amendment offered by Rep. W. Todd Akin (R-Mo) would prohibit military facilities being used for same-sex marriage ceremonies — even in states that allow said marriages. As such, both of these amendments would serve to broaden the scope of restrictions under DOMA and the latter would seem to impinge state sovereignty, something that has featured heavily in federal lawsuits against DOMA thus far.

Other conservative groups are still predicting a mass exodus form the military due to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” though military leaders have all said that, since repeal implementation began, they have seen little impact on military recruitment and retention. Repeal certification is expected to go ahead this summer. 

One further amendment regarding DADT repeal was also passed by the House. Offered by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the amendment is designed to slow down the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by requiring all four service chiefs to certify the repeal. Currently, only the president, the defense secretary and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are required to sign off on the change at which time a sixty day countdown to repeal will begin.
 
The U.S. House passed the budget bill with the above amendments in a 322-96 vote.

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to the U.S. Army Photostream.

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41 comments

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10:00AM PST on Dec 15, 2011

I have to wonder what grounds this religion-based group has to support a religious law being enforced in a secular government and secular army in a country which has a national law (1st amendment) that separates church from state?

These people are the real threat to America; bigger than Islamic terrorism, and will only be happy once this nation is turned into a far right Christian theocracy with their own, perverted, version of Christianity making all of the rules. They are more dangerous to American values than any other threat in this country or anywhere in the world because they work like a virus, unseen and behind the scenes where they do not get noticed very often.

I actually hope that they try. It will show the world just how ignorant and anti-American values those idiots are.

11:37PM PDT on Jun 5, 2011

Vote every last republican/conservative/teabagger OUT OF OFFICE for good!
Obama in 2012!

9:28AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

@Toni Priore, Ummm... It sounds like you probably should have read more than the 1st paragraph of my response.

LOL

1:02AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

I am so sick of religious conservatives trying to tell everybody outside of their petty little groups how people can live, work and exist. If they're not attacking women's rights, it's gay people. It's offensive. I don't want to live in their world where hatred, intolerance, bigotry, hatred is consistently spouted as the 'right way to live'. They've hijacked religion and turned it into their own petty law book. It disgusts me.

12:03PM PDT on May 30, 2011

Right wing religious idiots are disapproving of others because they are unhappy people who can't stand others being happy. Life is the Bataan Death March for them and they get mad if anyone else isn't doing that. Half my family is Pentecostal, which is how I know.

12:55AM PDT on May 30, 2011

Why are religious people always obsessed with sex? I wish they would shut up about things that don't concern them.

9:02PM PDT on May 29, 2011

Oops! Your "will to power" is showing. Instead of challenging it legislatively, push the agenda through the courts! They say a fascist is just a socialist in a hurry. This is a reiteration of Exhibit A.

2:22PM PDT on May 29, 2011

Glenna Jones-kachtik i like what you said and the way you said it....although i dont agree with same sex relationships i do not judge them and have several friends that are in these relationships...i dont push my beliefs on them and they dont push theres on me ...but what glenna says here hits the nail EXACTLY where it needs to be hit there are soooo many (straight) marriages out there that SHOULD have been stopped and werent and so many (gay) marriages that SHOULD have been performed and werent ....love is love no matter who you are

1:24PM PDT on May 29, 2011

These fanatics are so relentless in trying to make everyone conform to their beliefs.
They call themselves christians which is such a joke seeing as christians are supposed to love one another, like turn the other cheek or thats what that book says.
Perhaps they are just upset because they themselves are unable to come out of their closets lest anyone knows them.

12:54AM PDT on May 29, 2011

Thanks for the article.

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