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Anti-religion, anti-gay measure adopted to NDAA in committee vote

For immediate release:
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Contact: Zeke Stokes at
202-621-5406 or zeke@outserve-sldn.org

Anti-religion, anti-gay measure adopted to NDAA in committee vote
Meanwhile, Robinson praises Ranking Member for Supporting Military Family Equality

(Washington, DC) Tonight, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) put forth by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) that would compromise religious liberties of service members, erode the ability of military commanders to protect good order and discipline, and undermine the successful implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

“Religious liberty is a core American value, and we support the accommodation of all beliefs. What we can never support is legislation that sanctions one belief at the expense of others and places unit cohesion, the safety of our troops, and their ability to accomplish the mission in jeopardy, and that’s exactly what this bill would do,” said Army veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, an ordained Baptist minister.

If enacted, the Fleming amendment would protect inappropriate, defamatory, and discriminatory speech and actions – a significant expansion of current protections for beliefs – and would leave commanders with no recourse against such prejudicial conduct when it occurs in their units. Robinson said today that the military already has in place adequate protections for religious freedom and that the measure is unwarranted.

“The military already has in place policies that adequately protect a service member’s personal beliefs while also protecting unit cohesion and good order and discipline. This amendment is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to sabotage the climate of inclusion and respect for all that our Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense have called for in our military, and would create a license to bully, harass, and discriminate against service members based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any number of other characteristics,” said Robinson.

Robinson also said the measure would undermine the authority of military commanders.

“This amendment takes an authority this nation has entrusted to commanders in the field since its founding – the authority to exercise appropriate control over their troops’ ‘actions or speech’ to maintain good order and discipline – and puts it in the hands of politicians in Washington. As someone who has led soldiers in the field, I can tell you that is an untenable situation,” said Robinson.

In addition, during tonight’s debate, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member on HASC, introduced and withdrew key elements of the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act (MSET) that would ensure equal benefits, recognition, and support for all military spouses.

“This important gesture is a reminder that the families of gay and lesbian service members are still not treated equally and that the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ did not impact that reality. Congressman Smith is a tenacious fighter for equality in our military and for our troops and we are grateful for all his work to that end,” said Robinson.

The Senate will begin debating its own version of the bill later this month.

ABOUT OUTSERVE-SLDN: OutServe-SLDN is the association of actively serving LGBT military personnel with more than fifty chapters and 6500 members around the world It works to support a professional network of LGBT military personnel and create an environment of respect in the military with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. It is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. OS-SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. For more information, visit www.outserve-sldn.org.

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