May 15, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
White House objects to anti-gay posturing in House bills

The White House issued two separate formal statements on Tuesday objecting to House Republican legislation that restricts rights and withholds non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

In one Statement of Administration of Policy, the White House Office of Management & Budget objects to anti-gay provisions in the House version of the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill. The legislation authorizes $642 billion in annual funds for defense programs and troop pay.

The House Armed Services Committee adopted the anti-gay provisions into the defense bill last week. They are Section 536, which provides “conscience protections” for chaplains and troops whose religious beliefs are opposed to homosexuality, and Section 537, which prohibits same-sex marriage ceremonies from taking place on base. The White House goes so far as to say Section 537 is “potentially unconstitutional.”

“The Administration strongly objects to sections 536 and 537 because those provisions adopt unnecessary and ill-advised policies that would inhibit the ability of same-sex couples to marry or enter a recognized relationship under State law,” the statement says. “Section 536 would prohibit all personnel-related actions based on certain religious and moral beliefs, which, in its overbroad terms, is potentially harmful to good order and discipline. Section 537 would obligate DOD to deny Service members, retirees, and their family members access to facilities for religious ceremonies on the basis of sexual orientation, a troublesome and potentially unconstitutional limitation on religious liberty.”

The White House issued a veto threat over the bill if it “impede[s] the ability of the Administration to execute the new defense strategy and to properly direct scarce resources for defense purposes.”

Additionally, the White House says Obama will veto the legislation if certain provisions are included, including a provision related to terrorist detainees. However, no veto threat is explicitly stated for the anti-gay provisions in the bill.

In another Statement of Administration Policy, the White House extends a unconditional veto threat to the House Republicans’ version of legislation that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Among other things, the White House objects to the lack of non-discrimination language for LGBT people seeking help from domestic violence programs that receive federal funds.

“The bill also fails to include language that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT victims in VAWA grant programs,” the statement says. “No sexual assault or domestic violence victim should be beaten, hurt, or killed because they could not access needed support, assistance, and protection.”

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee rejected proposed amendments that would have afforded these non-discrimination protections to LGBT people and included the LGBT community in VAWA’s “STOP Grant Program.”

A vote on the House floor on this version of VAWA is expected on Wednesday. The Senate version of the legislation, which was approved last month on a 68-31 bipartisan vote, includes the protections for LGBT people.

The two bills aren’t the only pieces of House legislation in which explicit LGBT protections were withheld or anti-gay language was included.

Last week, the House approved by a vote of 245-171 an amendment to Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations saying no funds can used in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act. Because the administration continues to enforce the law, the language would have no impact.

The Statement of Administration Policy on the legislation came out last week before the amendment was added. However, language in the statement says the administration “strongly objects to the inclusion of ideological and political provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation” and “strongly opposes problematic policy and language riders that have no place in funding legislation.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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