The conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012 have according to reports dropped two anti-gay amendments added by legislators in the U.S. House.
The amendments, offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), related to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and specifically banning military chaplains’ participation in same-gender marriage ceremonies and blocking military facilities from being used for same-sex weddings.
However, one amendment by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss) remains in the final bill. This restates current law and says that no military chaplain can or will be forced to conduct a same-sex marriage in a state where same-sex marriages are legal.
Also language that would have repealed Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that bans sodomy. This repeal is not included in the reconciled bill.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the non-partisan legal group for LGBT servicemembers, registered in a statement that overall they are pleased with the committee’s reconciled NDAA:
“We congratulate the House and Senate conference committee for having struck the correct balance on the chaplains provisions. Clearly, there was no place for the restrictive Akin language as the Defense Department continues to move forward on effective implementation of open service in our military. This report demonstrates that a majority in Congress remains committed to, and in lock step with the Pentagon, in ensuring that we stay on the repeal course adopted by the last Congress and signed off on by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. There was no back tracking in the conference report on this front.
“Additionally, our initial reading of the committee’s decision to update the provisions for rape and sexual assault in Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is also positive.
The group notes its disappointment, however, that there will be no action on Article 125:
“However, we are very disappointed that the conferees voted to keep the sodomy provisions in Article 125. Dropping Article 125 has been recommended for more than a decade by SLDN and several groups, including the Cox Commission that includes distinguished legal scholars from the military and academia, as well as the Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG). The Senate was right to take this action, and it is unfortunate that their attempt to end Article 125 did not prevail. SLDN will continue to work with the Senate, House, and Department of Defense to bring about this needed change.”
The House and Senate must now approve the final bill before it heads to the president’s desk.