May 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Senate panel leaves out anti-gay provisions from defense bill

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Senate panel has completed work on major defense budget reauthorization legislation while leaving out anti-gay provisions found in the House version of the bill.

The Senate Armed Services Committee didn’t include anti-gay language found in House legislation as part of its markup of the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill. The 26-member Democratic-controlled committee, chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), on Thursday completed work on the $631 billion legislation, which authorizes funding for military programs and troop pay.

The House version of the legislation, approved by the Republican-controlled lower chamber last week by a vote of 299-120, contains a “conscience protection” allowing service members to harass their gay colleagues and chaplains not to minister them. Another provision in the bill prohibits same-sex marriage ceremonies on military bases. The provisions were adopted by the House Armed Services Committee.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, praised the Senate committee for leaving out the anti-gay provisions in its plan for the defense budget.

“SLDN and our allies have been working on Capitol Hill this year to encourage the Senate Armed Services Committee to pass a common-sense 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,” Sarvis said.

Provided the full Senate doesn’t adopt the anti-gay provisions when the bill comes up for a floor vote — a likely outcome in the Democratic-controlled Senate — House and Senate lawmakers will have to hammer out the differences over the anti-gay language as well as other issues during a conference committee later this year.

Similar anti-gay language was included last year in the previous House version of the defense authorization bill. The language was ultimately removed in conference committee before each chamber voted again to approve the final version of the legislation.

It’s unclear whether the Senate version of the legislation also contains a repeal of Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which bans sodomy for straight and gay service members. That language was included in last year’s version of the Senate legislation, but taken out in conference committee. Advocates at the time of this posting said it was unlikely the Senate bill included a repeal of the sodomy ban this time around, but weren’t certain.

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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