March 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Anti-gay military bill introduced in U.S. House
Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) introduced an anti-gay military bill in the U.S. House. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Kansas Republican is leading an effort to protect anti-gay service members and to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying on military installations.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), who was elected during the Tea Party wave of 2010, introduced legislation known as the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act, or H.R. 914, on Thursday.

The legislation has two parts. The first states that the religious and moral beliefs of service members and military chaplains concerning human sexuality won’t be the basis of adverse personnel action or discrimination in the armed forces. The section section states chaplains may not be forced to perform a rite that is contradictory to their religious teachings, which would include same-sex marriages.

The second section states that a military base can’t be used for any marriage or marriage-like ceremony other than the union of one man, one woman.

Huelskamp is known for pushing anti-gay legislation in the House. Last year, on the same day that President Obama endorsed marriage equality, Huelskamp amended major funding legislation on the House floor to reaffirm the Defense of Marriage Act.

Just last month, Huelskamp criticized “employment rules” that would “specifically and selectively reward homosexual behavior” during an interview on an anti-gay radio show, identifying it as a “radical” idea that most Americans don’t support — despite polling showing the vast majority of people support such protections.

In addition to Huelskamp, the legislation has six co-sponsors who are a rogue’s gallery of anti-gay House members: Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Steve King (R-Iowa), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.). King has previously amended legislation on the House floor to reaffirm DOMA with the intent of banning same-sex marriages on military bases.

The legislation is similar to the anti-gay language inserted to the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Authorization Act by former congressman and U.S. Senate candidate W. Todd Akin, which includes a conscience provision that — while watered-down from its original language — stated no service member will be punished for his or her religious beliefs.

House Republicans also included in their version of the bill language that would have prohibited same-sex weddings on military bases, but that was removed in conference committee.

President Obama signed the bill into law, but called that conscience language “an unnecessary and ill-advised provision” and gave assurances it “will not alter” the rights of gay service members because it was in line with existing policy regarding the religious beliefs of troops.

It remains to be seen what action Hueslkamp is planning for the legislation, such as whether he’ll amend the upcoming defense authorization bill to include the measure. His office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

LGBT advocates dismissed the anti-gay legislation as an attempt to revisit the debate on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, was among those rejecting the measure.

“This is yet another attempt by a handful of members fixated on revisiting a closed debate,” Cole-Schwartz said. “They lost on DADT repeal so now they have to cook up imaginary problems to play to a dwindling right-wing base.”

Zeke Stokes, a spokesperson for the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN, had similar thoughts on the legislation.

“This is just more of the same from a dwindling number of folks on Capitol Hill who wish to cling to the discrimination of the past, rather than embrace the journey toward full equality and fairness that we have embarked upon as a nation,” Stokes said. “Simply put, this bill seeks to address a problem that doesn’t exist.”

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

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