House Republicans have yet again introduced legislation to ban same-sex marriages on military bases and stop anti-gay chaplains from being discriminated against, despite no evidence of the latter ever having occurred.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. Tim Huselkamp (R-Kansas), aims to amend the military code to supposedly protect the “rights of conscience of members of the Armed Forces and chaplains.”
The legislation, H.R. 914 or the “Military Religious Freedom Protection Act,” states:
A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to require that implementation of the repeal of the former Department of Defense policy concerning homosexual behavior in the Armed Forces not infringe upon the free exercise of religion by and the rights of conscience of members of the Armed Forces, including chaplains, and for other purposes.
The legislation goes on to set out a special right to object that goes far beyond any reasonable religious accommodation and seems to give those in the military who are opposed to gay rights, and especially chaplains, an almost unfettered right to proselytize free from censure supposedly because it is their “religious right.”
Section 3 of the legislation then whacks down a ban on gay people getting married on military bases but, unlike previous attempts, it goes to no lengths to try to pretend that the Defense of Marriage Act requires such a ban (a notion that has been soundly rebutted) and instead just calls for what seems to amount to a military DOMA:
A military installation or other property owned, rented, or otherwise under the jurisdiction or control of the Department of Defense shall not be used to officiate, solemnize, or perform a marriage or marriage-like ceremony involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has previously attempted a similar ban himself, is co-sponsor to the bill. Other familiar names include Reps. Tim Walberg (Mich.) and Vicky Hartzler (Mo.), to name just a few.
Rep. Huselkamp has an established history of anti-gay rhetoric. Most recently he told Family Research Council host Tony Perkins shortly before the State of the Union speech (12 February) that Obama was aiming to “destroy the family” by backing marriage equality, saying:
This President has a radical social agenda and the media will probably give him a pass when instead of talking about the fact that mom and dad don’t have a job we’re going to talk about how to destroy the family and replace it with his view of a radical new social agenda. Someone has to stand up and defend the seventy percent position that most Americans support traditional marriage, most Americans understand the value of family, they understand it’s under attack and they understand that, they see it, they believe it. So we got to stand up.
Huselkamp is pulling polling figures from the 90s, apparently.
“This proposal needs to be seen for what it is – a naked attempt to undermine DADT repeal and open service by green lighting discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual service members,” ACLU Legislative Representative Ian Thompson told Metro Weekly. “Given the acknowledged success of the transition to open service, including from the uniformed military leadership, this legislation could not be more ill-timed or ill-advised.”
As noted above, this isn’t the first time such an attempt has been made under the guise of “protecting” religious freedom. Indeed, on several occasions in the past two years House Republicans have attached such provisions to the National Defense Authorization Act.
Last year Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) was successful in getting his so-called conscience clause legislation into the final version of the NDAA bill. The clause, heavily watered down from its initial wording, said that no chaplain could be forced to perform a same-sex marriage, this despite the fact that the Pentagon had previously and repeatedly stated that, per existing law, this was already the case.
The clause even prompted President Obama to issue a strong rebuke on signing the legislation, saying: “Section 533 is an unnecessary and ill-advised provision, as the military already appropriately protects the freedom of conscience of chaplains and service members. … My Administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that.”
Huselkamp’s legislation would appear destined for another ride on the NDAA’s coattails, however it is likely that the Senate will once again be able to strip out most if not all of the anti-gay provisions.
Yet, this stands as a sad commentary on the priorities of certain House Republicans.
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