Anti-Gay Amendments Dropped from Defense Bill; Sodomy Ban Stays

According to a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference committee report released today, several anti-gay amendments have been dropped from the Defense bill.

SarvisServicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis reacted in a statement, providing details on the changes

The report drops language from the House version introduced by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) related to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), chaplains' participation in same-gender marriage ceremonies, and access to military facilities.  It includes language introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) related to chaplains.  Meanwhile, it does not include repeal of Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice related to sodomy.

The Washington Blade adds:

LGBT advocates had railed against the Akin amendment as an extension of DOMA beyond the restrictions that are already imposed by the anti-gay law. Its adoption would have rolled back Pentagon guidance issued on Sept. 30 saying military chaplains could officiate at same-sex weddings if they so chose and military facilities could be involved in such events. The Hartzler amendment was seen as simply redundant to existing restrictions under DOMA.

Instead of these provisions, conferees settled on a provision found in the Senate version of the bill that Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) added by amendment on the floor. The language allows chaplains who don’t wish to perform same-sex weddings to opt out of doing so.

Said Sarvis:

"We congratulate the House and Senate conference committee for having struck the correct balance on the chaplains provisions.  Clearly, there was no place for the restrictive Akin language as the Defense Department continues to move forward on effective implementation of open service in our military. This report demonstrates that a majority in Congress remains committed to, and in lock step with the Pentagon, in ensuring that we stay on the repeal course adopted by the last Congress and signed off on by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. There was no back tracking in the conference report on this front.

"Additionally, our initial reading of the committee's decision to update the provisions for rape and sexual assault in Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice is also positive. 

"However, we are very disappointed that the conferees voted to keep the sodomy provisions in Article 125. Dropping Article 125 has been recommended for more than a decade by SLDN and several groups, including the Cox Commission that includes distinguished legal scholars from the military and academia, as well as the Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG).  The Senate was right to take this action, and it is unfortunate that their attempt to end Article 125 did not prevail. SLDN will continue to work with the Senate, House, and Department of Defense to bring about  this needed change."