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ALERT: Defense budget may include anti-gay provision

House GOP pushing clause that some fear could lead to harassment of gay service members

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House Republicans are aggressively pushing for an anti-gay provision in a defense bill proposed by Rep. W. Todd Akin. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Some House Republicans are pushing for inclusion of a “conscience protection” clause in the final version of Pentagon budget legislation that could enable discrimination against gay service members, according to LGBT advocates familiar with conference committee negotiations.

The measure could be made final as soon as today.

Two LGBT advocates, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said House Republican conferees working on the final version of the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill are pushing for language along the lines of the “conscience protections” in the House version of the legislation under Section 536. One source said this language is “very much in play” for being in the final version of the bill and is one of the final issues yet to be resolved as conferees wrap up the legislation.

Under the language, the U.S. military would have to “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 these beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action or discrimination. Additionally, it would prohibit the U.S. military from taking action against military chaplains who decline to serve a particular service member based on religious beliefs.

This language has been understood to mean service members could actively harass their fellow comrades for their perceived or actual sexual orientation without fear of reprisal. Additionally, it has been understood to mean that chaplains would have free rein to discriminate against service members on any basis — including religion, gender, sexual orientation, race or any other characteristic — simply by saying serving them is contrary to their beliefs.

The provision was added during the House Armed Services Committee markup of the legislation in May by outgoing Rep. W. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), an anti-gay lawmaker who became notorious during his bid as a U.S. Senate candidate for suggesting a woman can resist becoming pregnant after a “legitimate rape.” One of the LGBT advocates said the final language may not be exactly like Akin’s language in the House bill, but something along similar lines.

Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), affirmed that House Republican conferees are actively trying to include some type of exemption modeled after the “conscience protections” in the House bill.

“Leader Pelosi strongly opposes the inclusion of a ‘conscience provision’ in the final NDAA conference report,” Hammill said. “This language is a completely unnecessary attempt to address a phantom problem. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is in the dustbin of history where it belongs and Republicans need to stop trying to alter the tide of progress for gay and lesbian servicemembers.”

According to one source, House Republicans are pushing for the provision in exchange for giving up on the other anti-gay provision in the House defense authorization bill, Section 537, which would prohibit the use of Defense Department property for same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The Republican-controlled House approved a defense authorization bill with both these provisions as part of its $642 billion package in May, but the Senate left out this language in its $631 billion legislation passed last week.

The sense that this language is in play for the final version of the bill isn’t universal. A Senate Democratic aide familiar with the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he’s heard no discussion about the language and would be “very surprised” if it wound up in the final bill.

“I have not heard of it being in play and when that issue has come up — it came up last year and came up in mark up this year — it has always been outright rejected,” the aide said. “I know that there are House Republicans that want this, but I would be very surprised if it were enough of a group of House Republicans to be able to really play ball on this.”

Conferees may produce a final version of the legislation as soon as today, but likely not until next week. A floor vote is expected on the final version of the bill shortly thereafter. The aide said an informal meeting of conferees took place on Wednesday.

Asked if Democrats are putting up a fight, one source said he thinks Democrats would be happy if the anti-gay provisions were left out, but they may be talking about a compromise that would allow something along the lines of “conscience provisions” to appear in the bill. But the Democratic aide said Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin has strong objections to the provisions and would have raised them.

The debate over the language has been somewhat under the radar because controversial provisions included in one chamber’s version of legislation, but not the other, are usually dropped when conferees meet to hammer a final bill. Spokespersons for the House and Senate armed services committees say they wouldn’t have a comment until a final conference report is produced.

One source said it’s unclear which of the House Republican conferees are actively pushing for the language and he doesn’t believe House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) was taking the lead in the effort. But notable anti-gay lawmakers are members of the conference, including Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and House Armed Services personnel subcommittee chair Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).

It also should be noted that despite concerns about the language, questions linger about whether it will be enforceable even if it becomes the law on the grounds of unit cohesion and morale. The Senate Democratic aide said military chaplains are already free to decline ministration to any service member on the basis of religious beliefs even if the provision weren’t in law. Additionally, the first part of the provision says nothing in the language precludes disciplinary action for conduct proscribed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice — although sexual orientation isn’t a protected class in military law.

The White House said in May the Obama administration “strongly objects” to the conscience provision in the House version of the defense authorization bill along with a provision prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying on military bases as part of its Statement of Administration Policy.

Still, the statement doesn’t go as far as issuing a veto threat if the final version of the bill includes these provisions. A White House spokesperson didn’t respond immediately on short notice to a request for comment.

NOTE: This article has been updated to include a comment from Drew Hammill.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. lefabe

    December 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    douche nozzle til the bitter end.

  2. Jackson Euler

    December 14, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    as the US Ship of State sails away from the shores, there on the sand left behind are the Republicans, still thinking that there is a chance that they can be the captain of the ship, not realizing that ship has sailed!
    So much for all their efforts to re-shape the party, still seems petty and divisive to me.

  3. M Preston Chandler

    December 14, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Did these idiots learn nothing from the recent election? That they are outdated, outmoded and that the public at large is moving away from these neanderthals? Oh, wait, I'm crediting them for the ability to learn. My bad…

  4. Kelly Creech

    December 14, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    So much for the budget being their #1 priority! Not that that's a surprise.

    • Lanorexic

      December 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      The budget is their number one priority. They want all of it to go to defense contractors instead of going to the people that need to eat and get health care. Hence their attention to details of the membership of the armed forces.

  5. Dale Hankins

    December 14, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    when will these neanderthals go away?

  6. Adam Everett Colclasure

    December 14, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Republican idiots again trying to say that they don't let their religion dictate what they do really this seem like a prime example of them letting religion dictate what they do. We really need to do something to fix that in the house. Hold more house member accountable for not understanding the separation between church and state.

  7. Brent Milburn

    December 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Log Cabin Republicans/Gay catholics why continue to support a Party/religion that despises you?

    • Anthony Neff

      December 15, 2012 at 10:56 am

      Because they're stupid? Because they have crushes on people like Rush and Newt (yeah, ew)? Because they think that they can change the mentality of one screwed-up political party?

      I've actually talked to gay Repubs, and they're answer as to why they sided with evil is always, "Oh, the Republicans don't hate gays, it's just a few of them" or something similar.

      I think LCRs and gay Catholics should have their affiliation stamped on their foreheads so we can just ignore them when we see them coming. Strictly my opinion of course ;-)

    • Lanorexic

      December 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      You really have to wonder why they’d claim membership in such a group of haters. It must be self-loathing.

    • Lanorexic

      December 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      Hey! The LCR’s might be getting more “footage” you-know-where from the uptight rethugnican party than all the other sources they know. Think about all the closeted fellas in that group.

  8. Cameron Robert

    December 14, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I'll never understand why Rethuglican, conservative, right-wing, religious fanatics think they can force other normal people to accept their deviant views and lifestyle. They love to tell other people how to live their lives, while their own lives are in shambles. The Christian (esp. Catholic, Mormon, Evangelical, and Southern Baptist) Taliban in this country are going to face a violent wake up call soon if they keep trying to spread their hatred, intolerant views, and intolerant actions on normal Americans. And it is patently unfair that Gay Americans and their loved ones should suffer the effects of discrimination while the bigots and their loved ones go about their lives as if nothing is wrong. Anyone coming into contact with Todd Akin, Duncan Hunter, Joe Wilson, Vicky Hartzler, Steve King, Alan West, Michelle Bachmann, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, other bigoted legislators, or their loved ones, SHOULD TAKE ANY ACTION POSSIBLE TO HARM THEM. Maybe when the bigots start paying a high price for their discriminatory actions, they'll think twice before committing the same crimes in the future.

    • Lanorexic

      December 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      I’m an ex-infantry soldier. The army discovered that I’m trans/bisexual after awarding me several commendations. They were incensed to say the least. They tried to discharge under less than honorable circumstances but being the “Battalion Soldier of the Quarter” it was in total contradiction to their own commendation they had just awarded me. It was almost comical. Then they decided I was a druggie. But I knew all the same people that I smoked the “goodies” with and they covered my back. In the end they settled for me leaving after labeling me as having “mental health issues”. The U.S. Military is the most homophobic organization on the planet. Bar none. Most of the men are so deeply in love with each other that they don’t even realize it! It’s so crazy.

  9. Sharon Akins

    December 14, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    I am getting so SICK of hearing all this gay bashing. I have friends who are gay and there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM! Being gay has NOTHING to do with serving in the Military as any gay man or lesbian woman has the right to fight and protect those they love. Their relationships are between them and their loved ones, and which ever god they choose to worship. It is not for the Human world to say it is wrong, we are NOT God(s). Leave them alone and treat them like human beings already! I swear anti-gay promoters make me sick!

  10. brian

    December 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Busted! More drill-down reporting from the Blade. Thanks.

  11. Beau

    December 14, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    This provision comes from the “legitimate rape” wordsmith known as Todd Akin

  12. I'm Just Sayin'

    December 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    This just goes to show how clueless LCR’s Clarke Cooper is when he tries to persuade anyone who is still listening to him, that republicans will not use every legislative maneuver at their disposal to undermine DADT. They may not be able to repeal it, but clearly they plan to act within their power to drive gay military personnel back into the “footlocker.”

  13. Christopher Erwin Hogan

    December 15, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Do these assholes EVER STOP?

  14. Michael Smith

    December 15, 2012 at 5:03 am

    Warriors have no Gods. Akin and his fascist cronies lost, they have no business pushing any kind of legislation.

  15. George M Melby

    December 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Wouldn't you THINK that the more these American christian Taliban push their anti-gay agenda, the more ground the GLBTQ community is going to gain for their forward moving equality target? These right-wing extremists never seem to learn their lesson. The Fundie/Conservie/TPods are going to be left in the dust in the present AND future of our progressive agenda! So be it!
    Dakotahgeo, M.Div. Pastor/Chaplain

  16. Anonymous

    December 15, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    The doing away with DADT a year ago went uneventful as there were little if any problems. This by itself pisses off those that wanted to see this repeal backfire. So in response they are trying to stir something up that's not there. Shame on these "religious right" governed politicians.

  17. Danny Perez

    December 17, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Akin will continue to ooze his slime of hatred until the day he seeps back into the mire of the sewer from whence he seeped, him and his ilk. Fortunately soon it won't be as a legislator.

  18. Lanorexic

    December 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    By including such provisions they will be sure that this defense funding is vetoed. Our soldiers will be in the field without being payed, they’ll run out of ammunition and fuel and the legislation will have to be re-written. Oh to be a rethugnican.

  19. Lanorexic

    December 17, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    When will we outlaw the GOP?

  20. Lanorexic

    December 17, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    The sad thing is that one of these horribly bigoted Repthugnicans must have a gay or lesbian son or daughter. Can you imagine the nightmare of being born into one of those households?

  21. Tim Pollard

    December 30, 2012 at 2:07 am

    These right wing moralistic megalomaniacal self-centered hypocrites need to get their faces publicly slapped, and then these same hate-mongering pedagogues need to be censured and removed from office permanently, then be stripped of all their congressional pensions and benefits, which the American tax-paying people pay for.

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National

Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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