In a letter to President Obama, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) has asked that the president make it known he will veto the National Defense Authorization Act if it reaches his desk with provisions attached passed by the House designed to both slow the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service personnel, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), and to shore up the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
The letter was signed by Frank and three other House Democrats: Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and David Cicilline (D-RI).
“We believe it would therefore be extremely useful for you to make clear that if the final bill presented to you does include these sections, which would undermine the end to discrimination in the military, that you will veto the bill on that ground,” the letter states.
While the letter stressed that the lawmakers do not believe the Senate will approve similar language, it said, “we think it would be the best course for you to reaffirm your strong support of the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by making it explicit that you would veto a bill in the unlikely event that it came to you.”
The National Defense Authorization Act passed the Republican-controlled House in May by a 322-96 vote with three anti-gay amendments attached.
Proposed by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California), the DADT amendment would require all four service chiefs, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, to certify that the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy won’t harm readiness or unit cohesion, a move explicitly designed to slow the DADT repeal.
Currently, only certification from the president, the defense secretary and the Joint Chiefs chairman is required. At least two of the service chiefs voiced opposition to repeal but all have since admitted that repeal proceedings have been going well with little to no impact or readiness or retention.
When the amendment was proposed a White House spokesperson said that the administration had “serious objections to any amendment that would unnecessarily delay [the DADT repeal] process.”
There was, however, no mention of a veto alongside those “serious objections.”
The other two amendments are as follows:
Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) offered an amendment that would prohibit the use of military facilities for same-sex marriage ceremonies and would prevent Defense Department employees from officiating, ironically being touted as a way to maintain military chaplains’ rights to object to gay unions while in fact taking away the right of those that don’t object who want to be involved in such proceedings where gay marriage is legal.
One other amendment offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzier (R-MO) stipulates that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman for the purposes of military benefits and policy. This is actually superfluous as the military has stressed that the benefits system would not change under the DADT repeal, but likely anticipates a time when such a stance may be called into question in court.
DADT certification is expected within the next couple of months, with over half of the military having now been trained. Read more on that here.