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SLDN Responds to Hostile Amendments Adopted to NDAA in House Armed Services Committee

For immediate release: Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Contact: Zeke Stokes at (202) 621-5406 or zeke@sldn.org

(WASHINGTON, DC) Army veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis fired back at opponents of LGBT military equality on Capitol Hill tonight in response to the adoption of harmful amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that seek to limit the use of Department of Defense facilities, affect military chaplains, and undermine successful "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal implementation.

The first of these, put forth by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), would give so-called "conscience protections" to chaplains and service members who do not wish to minister and work with gay and lesbian service members. A threat to military readiness and unit cohesion, this amendment would allow service members to actively harass their fellow comrades for their perceived or actual sexual orientation. It would allow chaplains to discriminate against service members by religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, or any other religious belief simply by arguing that ministering to them would be contrary to their "conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs."

"Mr. Akin is trying to solve a problem that does not exist. There are already in place adequate protections for chaplains and service members in this area. No one in uniform is being required to go against their conscience, and no one is being punished for expressing their personal religious beliefs. The alleged cases of abuse or bad judgement that Mr. Akin likes to reference have not been investigated or proven to be factual. So, let's get to the heart of the matter. Mr. Akin and a few others wish to weaken implementation of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal. The Pentagon, Congress, and the American people have spoken on this, and Mr. Akin simply doesn't like the outcome," said Sarvis.

A second amendment adopted tonight, sponsored by Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), would limit the use of Department of Defense property for same-gender marriage ceremonies.

“The Department of Defense has already made it clear - and appropriately so - that decisions about the use of facilities should be made on a sexual orientation neutral basis. This is yet another attempt by a few opponents of military equality who are looking to turn the clock back on progress and relegate gay and lesbian service members to second-class status. It's transparent, and it's blatant pandering to the far right.”

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ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) 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. 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. Since 1993, our in-house legal team has responded to more than 11,000 requests for assistance. 

SLDN FREE HOTLINE: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: Call 1-800-538-7418 or 202-328-3244 x100.

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