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House panel adopts ‘conscience’ amendment to defense bill

Measure puts burden on Pentagon to prove harassment causes ‘actual harm’

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United States Capitol Building, dome, gay news, Washington Blade
United States Capitol Building, dome, gay news, Washington Blade

A House panel approved an amendment that would make it easier for troops to harass their gay colleagues. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A House panel on Wednesday approved as part of major defense legislation an amendment that would make it easier for troops to harass their gay comrades without fear of reprisal.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), was approved by the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee by a vote of 33-26 as part of the fiscal year 2014 defense authorization bill.

Fleming’s measure would expand the “conscience provision” that already exists in defense law. It would protect discriminatory speech and actions and leave commanders with no recourse against prejudicial conduct when it occurs in their units.

Further, the measure requires the Pentagon to implement regulations within 120 days after the bill becomes law. The defense secretary must consult with “official military faith-group representatives who endorse military chaplains” before the regulations are issued.

President Obama signed the existing “conscience provision” under Section 533 as part of the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Authorization Act. At the time of the signing, Obama called it “unnecessary” and said he was signing the defense package under assurances the Pentagon wouldn’t “permit or condone discriminatory actions that compromise good order and discipline or otherwise violate military codes of conduct.”

LGBT groups expressed disappointment over the adoption of the amendment and said it reflects a continued discontent among those who opposed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, said “it is disappointing” the House panel approved “this dangerous amendment” as part of the defense authorization bill.

“It is, quite frankly, puzzling why a majority of members on this committee would support a measure that has the potential to make it more difficult for commanders to responsibly deal with problems regarding conduct that undermines longstanding prohibitions against harassment,” Thompson said.

Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, expressed a similar sentiment.

“Let’s face it — this amendment is simply another attack by those who still oppose the successful repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and continue to look for ways to allow discrimination in our Armed Forces,” Cole-Schwartz said. “This amendment will expand a standard in the law that could allow religion to serve as a proxy for discrimination which clearly harms unit cohesion and military readiness.”

Allyson Robinson, executive director the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN and Army veteran, expressed opposition to the amendment because, among other things, the bill would undermine the authority of military commanders.

“This amendment takes an authority this nation has entrusted to commanders in the field since its founding – the authority to exercise appropriate control over their troops’ ‘actions or speech’ to maintain good order and discipline – and puts it in the hands of politicians in Washington,” Robinson said. “As someone who has led soldiers in the field, I can tell you that is an untenable situation.”

According to OutServe-SLDN, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), top Democrat on the committee, introduced and withdrew key elements of the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act (MSET) that would ensure “equal benefits, recognition, and support for all military spouses.”

Given the Republican majority on the panel, the measure would have likely failed if Smith had brought up the measure for a vote.

Robinson said Smith’s action serves a reminder that gay service members are unable to receive many spousal benefits — including health and pension benefits — because of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“This important gesture is a reminder that the families of gay and lesbian service members are still not treated equally and that the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ did not impact that reality,” Robinson said. “Congressman Smith is a tenacious fighter for equality in our military and for our troops and we are grateful for all his work to that end.”

The Blade will provide a roll call vote on the Fleming amendment soon.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Merrily Harris Snider

    June 6, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Am I reading the Onion?

    • Anonymous

      June 10, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      NO – you just dont reaize how crazy repubs are, sold out to the bible belt people – racists, anti gay etc.

      BTW we ran into some of them at Dupont circle pride parade

      They admit they believe that only the born agains go to heaven and that means 99%+ of hte poeeple go to hell

      Someone should lock the gate on the nut house and send the loose ones to Borneo where the natives still headhunt.

    • Anonymous

      June 10, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      BTW with the recent expose of how women are being hassled, raped etc in the mil and the commanders do nohting since it looks bad on their record if bad things happen in thier units

      this rule could easily end up destroying the mil simply by rape of aggressive sex starved troops.

  2. Linda Martin Jones

    June 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    I am unable to see the entire article because your ad for Great Harvest Bakeries has no "close" button on it.

  3. Rick Nelesen

    June 7, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Further, the measure requires the Pentagon to implement regulations within 120 days after the bill becomes law. The defense secretary must consult with “official military faith-group representatives who endorse military chaplains” before the regulations are issued.

    I seems to me that based on this language there is a violation of the First Amendment.

  4. Anonymous

    June 10, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    This s courtesy of the hate group FRC whose president tony perkins said ending dadt will lead to the destruction of unit cohesion.

    do I make hte point?

    Does anyone remember when at the Air force academy , jews etc were hassled by ev angelical xttins, ultimately leading to the general in charge being fired.

    Repugnicans – sold out to the bible belt deep south for whom America's first black president is a nightmare come true.

    BTW about half a year ago a woman at west point quit due to religious hassling, and may have to pay the govt back $30k.

    Imagine what this ccountry would be like if the xtremist xtian hate groups take over the mil.

    A mix of Saudi arabia and commie russia.

  5. SusanF

    June 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    “and puts it in the hands of politicians in Washington,”–just like they’ve done with women’s health care. Straight WASP males are making policy for people about whose issues they either don’t understand or don’t care about.

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Politics

Anti-LGBTQ Daily Wire host says 2 men shouldn’t be allowed to adopt babies

” […] because babies need mothers. They also need fathers, which is why two women shouldn’t be allowed either.”

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Screenshot of Matt Walsh via YouTube (Blade file photo)

NASHVILLE – Anti-LGBTQ Daily Wire podcast and YouTuber Matt Walsh joined the growing chorus of far-right and conservative voices outraged that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg went on paternity leave from his job in August after he and his husband Chasten had adopted two children.

On his show Monday Walsh not only criticized Buttigieg, but he attacked same-sex couples adopting children altogether.

It’s absurd for any public employee, paid on taxpayer dime, to be given that much time off. Now, you can make an argument for women on maternity leave but not for men. Paternity leave is a nice luxury for private companies that can afford it. The U.S. government is not a private company – it’s a public institution, deeply in debt, failing in just about every way and everywhere. So this is not a time and not the place for those kinds of luxuries. But that’s the somewhat safer point to make, right? You are in a much more hazardous place, you are in more hazardous waters when you go away from that and, instead, you start saying mildly critical things about paternity leave in general as a concept.”

I also didn’t say that there’s nothing at all for a man to do for his family after a child is born. I said that as far as caring for the newborn himself, most of that is going to be done by the mother. She, in most cases, will be feeding the child. The child also needs and wants his mother’s presence, his mother’s touch, her voice. The father should be interacting with the baby also, obviously, but the infant is far more focused on his mother at that age. And needs his mother more. There is no mother in the Buttigieg household, but that doesn’t change the point here.”

Babies need their mothers, which is why two men shouldn’t be allowed to adopt babies in the first place. And the outrage mob can now start a secondary campaign over that comment. But I’ll say it again. Two men should not be allowed to adopt babies because babies need mothers. They also need fathers, which is why two women shouldn’t be allowed either.

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Politics

Pete Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson over attack

Fox News host mocked transportation secretary over paternity leave

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Washington Blade file photo)

Appearing remotely on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace’s politics program Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for the attack on his parental leave.

“This attack is coming from a guy who has yet to explain his apparent approval for the assassination of Harvey Milk, ” Buttigieg said.

During his Thursday evening program Carlson said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child—paternity leave, they call it—trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the transportation secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

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National

Biden recognizes National Coming Out Day as time to honor LGBTQ people

White House statement denounces ‘bullying and harassment’

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President Biden recognized Oct. 11 as National Coming Out Day in a statement on Monday calling the occasion a time to celebrate the “courage of LGBTQ+ people who live their lives with pride, create community with open arms and hearts, and showcase the strength of being your authentic self.”

Biden ticked off in the statement the achievements on LGBTQ policy, including signing an executive order on his first day in his office ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the furthest extent possible.

“Despite the extraordinary progress our nation has made, our work to ensure the full promise of equality is not yet done. Anti-LGBTQ+ bills still proliferate in state legislatures,” Biden said. “Bullying and harassment — particularly of young transgender Americans and LGBTQ+ people of color — still abounds, diminishing our national character. We must continue to stand together against these acts of hate, and stand up to protect the rights, opportunities, physical safety, and mental health of LGBTQ+ people everywhere.”

Read Biden’s full statement below:

Statement by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on National Coming Out Day

Today, we celebrate National Coming Out Day and the courage of LGBTQ+ people who live their lives with pride, create community with open arms and hearts, and showcase the strength of being your authentic self. Today and every day, I want every member of the LGBTQ+ community to know that you are loved and accepted just the way you are – regardless of whether or not you’ve come out.

My Administration is committed to ensuring that LGBTQ+ people can live openly, proudly, and freely in every corner of our nation. I am proud to lead an Administration with LGBTQ+ officials serving openly at the highest levels of government — and prouder that together we have made historic progress advancing protections and equal opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. From acting on Day One to prevent and combat discrimination, to enabling all qualified Americans – including transgender Americans – to serve their country in uniform, to defending the human rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world, my Administration has been clear that we will continue to champion the dignity, equality, and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Despite the extraordinary progress our nation has made, our work to ensure the full promise of equality is not yet done. Anti-LGBTQ+ bills still proliferate in state legislatures. Bullying and harassment — particularly of young transgender Americans and LGBTQ+ people of color — still abounds, diminishing our national character. We must continue to stand together against these acts of hate, and stand up to protect the rights, opportunities, physical safety, and mental health of LGBTQ+ people everywhere. From defeating discriminatory bills to passing the Equality Act, we have more work to do to ensure that every American can live free of fear, harassment, and discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.

To LGBTQ+ people across the country, and especially those who are contemplating coming out: know that you are loved for who you are, you are admired for your courage, and you will have a community — and a nation — to welcome you. My Administration will always have your back, and we will continue fighting for the full measure of equality, dignity, and respect you deserve.

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