Tomorrow morning, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will begin mark-up of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), HR 1540. Mark-up is the forum by which members of the committee may amend the defense bill before it is reported out of the Armed Services Committee to the full House of Representatives. Tomorrow’s mark-up is where we have been expecting opponents of repeal to try to delay, derail and defund the repeal process. We now know of at least four hostile amendments likely to be offered.
The most well-publicized is Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) amendment that would include the Service Chief of each branch of the Armed Forces in the certification process. As the law stands now, the President, Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs are the only ones who need to certify that DADT repeal will not harm unit cohesion or military readiness. Perhaps Rep. Hunter missed, or ignored entirely, the April 7 HASC hearing featuring the Chiefs, in which all four testified that they did not need the expanded authority.
Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) is planning to offer an amendment that would prohibit the use of any military installation as a venue for same-sex marriages, whether or not that facility is located in a state that permits same-sex marriages. It would also prohibit any chaplain, member of the Armed Forces, or Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employee from assisting or performing in a same-sex marriage ceremony anywhere. That’s right. Are you a straight service member with a gay brother who is getting married in Iowa? Better not be his best man.
This amendment is in response to a recent letter by the Navy Chief of Chaplains that would allow same-sex marriages to be performed on naval installations in states that permit same-sex marriage. So, let's be clear on what that Navy legal guidance said and what it did not say. Under the April 13th guidance, the Navy finds that use of base facilities is sexual-orientation-neutral, and that a military chaplain "may officiate a same-sex, civil marriage: if it is conducted in accordance with the laws of a state which permits same-sex applicable state and local laws." Nothing in the guidance is requiring a chaplain to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony, on- or off-post. Specifically, the guidance stated "regarding chaplain participation, consistent with the tenets of his or her religious organization, a chaplain may officiate . . ."
Another amendment being offered is by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO). It would reaffirm that language contained in the Defense Of Marriage Act (a marriage is only a union between a man and a woman) specifically applies to legislation surrounding the Department of Defense and is applicable to members of the Armed Forces and DoD civilian employees. To bring the DOMA debate into the NDAA mark-up is pretty extraordinary, interjecting faded, rightwing issues into the funding authorization for our armed forces and setting back equality.
Last, but certainly not least, is an amendment being offered by Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) that would protect the bigotry (he calls it “Rights of Conscience”) of anyone in the military that believes that being gay is immoral. He also would delay certification another 90 days…that is 90 legislative days (when both houses of Congress are in session, which is usually about three days a week during the months of Feb-July and Sept-Oct) or in other words, a really long time.
Please call every member of the HASC and urge them to reject these amendments. It is time for the Committee, and Congress as a whole, to move on. We need certification – and final repeal – as soon as possible.
05-10-11 By Jeremy Wilson-Simerman, SLDN Legislative Co-Director |