The committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act May 26, which is expected to come before the full Senate later this month or next.
The House adopted its version of NDAA May 18.
That bill includes a “conscience protection” provision that would allow military members and chaplains to decline to work with LGBT servicemembers as well as another stipulation that would prevent the use of Department of Defense property for same-sex marriage ceremonies.
If the full Senate approves the NDAA version passed by the committee, which advanced unanimously, the two chambers will come together in a conference committee to work out the inconsistencies between the two measures.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said his agency has been working with the Senate committee to “pass a commonsense defense-spending bill that does not seek to turn the clock back on the progress we have made in this first year of implementation of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal.”
The first House amendment, offered by Congressman Todd Akin (R-Mo.), would stipulate that the military “shall accommodate the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs of the members of the Armed Forces concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality and may not use such conscience, principles or beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination or denial or promotion, schooling, training or assignment.”
The marriage ceremony amendment was submitted by Akin and Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and would mandate that any institution or property under the jurisdiction of DoD could 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.”
Sarvis noted that DoD has “already made it clear that decisions surrounding 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 relegate gay and lesbian servicemembers to second-class status.”
All Republican Congressmembers from Pennsylvania voted for the House version, except for Congressmen Charles Dent (15th Dist.) and Michael Fitzpatrick (8th Dist.), while all Democrats voted against it.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.