House committee adopts anti-gay amendments

Aubrey Sarvis

Amendments not likely to pass in the Senate, but could resurface in conference committee

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

The full U.S. House Armed Services Committee approved three amendments late Wednesday night, May 11, that seek to delay implementation of repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and to reiterate Congress’s support for the Defense of Marriage Act.

The votes were largely along partisan lines and are unlikely to be sustained in the Democratic-controlled Senate, even if they are approved by the Republican-dominated House.

But the question is whether they might survive a Senate-House conference committee, when compromises have to be hammered out between two increasingly contentious parties.

None of the proposed amendments sought to undo what Congress did last December when it passed legislation to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay people, but each provided yet another forum for debate over repeal.

The committee debated for more than 40 minutes on an amendment over whether to require that each of the chiefs of the four combat branches of the military provide written certification to Congress before repeal can be implemented. The amendment passed 33-27.

Committee members then debated for less than 20 minutes on an amendment to reiterate that the Defense of Marriage Act applies to the military. The amendment passed 39-22.

And they debated for 13 minutes on an amendment to reiterate that decisions concerning use of military facilities and personnel for conducting same-sex wedding ceremonies are governed by DOMA. That amendment passed 38-23.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called the amendments “an assault on our nation’s senior military leaders and rank-and-file service members, who are marching toward open military service successfully.

“These adopted amendments to delay and derail repeal are a partisan political attempt to interject the same-sex marriage debate and other unrelated social issues into the [budget authorization legislation] where they have no place,” said Sarvis.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the amendments were intended “to slow down open service and perpetuate scare tactics about the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

Three different Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee proposed the amendments during the full House Armed Services Committee consideration of the annual bill authorizing how the Department of Defense can spend its funding. The overall bill is known as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (or bill Number H.R. 1540). Fiscal Year 2012 begins Oct. 1.

San Diego Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter first introduced his measure, called the “Restore Military Readiness Act,” as a stand-alone bill, in January. It has 25 co-sponsors.

It seeks to require that certification of military readiness to implement repeal of the ban on gays in the military be done by the chiefs of the four branches of the military, in addition to the certifications already required from the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hunter, in debate, claimed that “60 to 70 percent” of Navy Seals oppose repeal of DADT. The Seals have been the subject of enormous public attention and praise recently, after successfully capturing and killing terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.

San Diego Democrat Rep. Susan Davis, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee which received Hunter’s original measure, reminded the full committee that the four service branch chiefs testified at Congressional hearings that they believe their views are heard and respected by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.

Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, lamented that the House continues to debate DADT repeal.

“Having openly gay people serve in our military is not apocalypse,” said Johnson, “it’s a sign of progress.”

He also reminded committee members that when President Truman moved to integrate the military, there were some who opposed it.

“I think it’s a similar situation here with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” said Johnson.

Ohio Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan read a letter from a gay veteran from World War II, supporting repeal of DADT.

Currently, President Obama, Gates and Mullen are expected to certify the military as ready to implement repeal of DADT this summer. The repeal would then take effect 60 days later.

Given how difficult it has been for the Senate and House to agree on budget matters in recent months, it seems possible that the 60-day waiting period will expire and DADT will be repealed long before a Senate-House conference committee will have a chance to tackle the issues.

The second amendment came from Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler. It seeks to emphasize that DOMA still applies to DOD regulations and policies.

Hartzler said the amendment would address situations such as the recent conflict over whether Navy chaplains could preside over same-sex marriages and allow such ceremonies to take place on military bases.

Rep. Randy Forbes, a Republican from Virginia, and others claimed the amendment was necessary because the Obama administration was “not enforcing” DOMA, so it is necessary to reiterate Congress’s support for the law. No one spoke to correct that claim.

The Obama administration made clear it would continue enforcing DOMA until such time as the courts may find it unconstitutional. But it did say it would no longer defend DOMA as passing all constitutional levels of scrutiny in all federal courts.

The third amendment, from Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin, would prevent the use of military facilities or personnel for marriage ceremonies between same-sex couples.

Akin’s amendment, like that of Hartzler, was in reaction to an April 13 memo from the Navy’s Chief of Chaplains recommending military facilities be available for use at same-sex marriage ceremonies in states where marriage licenses are available to same-sex couples. The chief also recommended military chaplains be allowed to participate in such ceremonies, if their religious beliefs allow them to.

But on Tuesday, May 10, Navy Chaplain Chief Mark Tidd “suspended” his earlier recommendations, saying they needed to undergo “additional legal and policy review and interdepartmental coordination.”

ABC News reported that a group of 63 Republicans had sent a letter to the Secretary of Navy, expressing objections to Tidd’s initial recommendations.

“Make no mistake,” said SLDN’s Sarvis, “these votes should be a wake-up call to supporters of open service that our work is not done. Our commitment to timely certification and repeal must be redoubled as we move to the House floor to defend the progress we have made to ensure that LGB patriots can defend and serve the country they love with honesty and integrity.”

Rep. Steven Palazzo, a Mississippi Republican, was reportedly ready to introduce an amendment to delay implementation of DADT repeal in order to develop and issue new regulations concerning how to handle service members who have religious or moral objections to openly gay people in the military. He did not do so.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: ENDA loses 92 co-sponsors; study estimates 9 million LGB Americans

Chely Wright and Lauren Blitzer

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Last week the re-introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was delayed due to a lack of co-sponsors. Now we can see why. The federal bill to ban anti-LGBT job discrimination was finally re-introduced Wednesday with nearly half the co-sponsors it had in the last session. The number of ENDA co-sponsors is down from 203 in the last Congress to 111 in this one. Republicans, of course, picked up 70 seats in the House last November, but this still leaves a difference of 22. LGBT advocates are downplaying the numbers, saying the bill isn’t going to pass anyway this session so the most important thing is how much educating they’re able to do.

2. Nine million Americans, or about 3.5 percent of the overall population, identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to a new study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

3. Country singer Chely Wright, who came out last year and spoke at Black Die Dinner in Dallas in November, is engaged to LGBT activist Lauren Blitzer, accorrding to People magazine. They plan to marry in August.

—  John Wright

Log Cabin urges court to sustain DADT case

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — A gay rights group is asking a federal appeals court in California to keep considering whether a trial judge properly struck down the U.S. military’s ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Lawyers for Log Cabin Republicans filed a brief Monday, Jan. 10 arguing that because the ban has not been lifted, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals needs to maintain its schedule in the government’s challenge to the lower court’s ruling.

It came in response to a Justice Department motion seeking to suspend the case for at least three months. The department faces a Jan. 24 deadline for submitting opening arguments.

Government lawyers say putting the appeal on hold would allow the Pentagon to focus on training troops and other tasks necessary for completing the repeal of the ban.

Congress has agreed to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

—  John Wright

The Nooner: Rebecca Drysdale, Log Cabin Republicans, next week’s deep freeze

Your gay lunchtime quickie from Instant Tea:

• Lesbian comic Rebecca Drysdale releases must-see, profanity-laden “It Gets Better” video. (Above, NSFW)

• Cross-dressing suspect charged in Houston-area bank robbery.

• Log Cabin Republicans welcomes 112th Congress: “The 2010 election was an historic victory for the GOP, and Log Cabin Republicans is committed to moving forward as part of a stronger, more inclusive Republican Party focused on the issues that unite us as Americans.•

Deep freeze headed to N. Texas: “Record lows aren’t in the forecast, but the frigid weather is expected to arrive Monday and stick around through at least Friday, with highs hovering near freezing and lows in the teens, said meteorologist Jason Dunn of the National Weather Service’s Fort Worth office.”

• Gay-friendly Dallas-based dating website Match.com sued over fake profiles.

—  John Wright

New Year. New Congress. New Senate Rules?

As the 112th Congress convenes for the first time on Wednesday, senators are expected to consider revising Senate rules to address procedural dysfunction highlighted during the 111th Congress.  Increased use of Senate rules for the purpose of obstructionism during the 111th Congress led to, among other things, delayed executive branch appointments, including a virtual standstill on the appointment of equality-minded judges, and multiple filibusters to delay passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation.   In response, HRC has joined a coalition of groups calling on the Senate to prioritize open debate, increase transparency and accountability, and prevent needless partisan obstructionism.

Proposed reforms to Senate rules include eliminating “secret holds,” a tactic that allows any senator to anonymously block a vote on a presidential nomination.  In addition, a central topic in the discussion of reform is the filibuster.  As the coalition notes, “[t]hough the Senate averaged approximately one filibuster per year until 1970, senators in the past two sessions have used this tactic roughly 70 times per year.”  A filibuster was invoked on 139 occasions during the 111th Congress, a record high and also a 100% increase from the 110th Congress.  This abusive use of the filibuster has led to a new standard in the Senate that requires senators to meet a 60 vote threshold for a large number of votes.  Potential filibuster reforms include reducing the threshold number of votes required to avoid a filibuster and requiring senators who invoke a filibuster to remain on the Senate floor while the filibuster is taking place.

While there were landmark achievements in the 111th Congress for the LGBT community – including passage of a hate crimes bill and the legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – the exploitation of current Senate rules led to delays and partisan warfare over both bills.  It is time for the Senate to take a hard look at whether its current rules lead to unnecessary partisan obstructionism, safe havens for senators to avoid discussing substantive issues, and distortion of the views and beliefs of the American people.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

What’s Brewing: Navy investigates sex videos; Prop 8-backing pastor accused of pedophilia

1. The Navy has launched an investigation into a series of raunchy sex videos that were shown to the crew of an aircraft carrier deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. A Navy spokesman called the videos, uncovered by The Virginia-Pilot newspaper, “clearly inappropriate.” Gee, ya think? The videos, which contain anti-gay slurs and simulated sex acts, reportedly were produced by Capt. Owen Honors, who at the time was second-in-command of the carrier, the USS Enterprise. Powers has since taken command of the carrier, which is scheduled to deploy in a few weeks. This is just a wild guess, but we’re saying Honors won’t be aboard the ship when it leaves Norfolk.

2. California pastor and Prop 8 supporter Tom Daniels is being held on $6 million bail after being charged with multiple sexual assaults of a child. In other words, this guy thinks gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, but it’s fine for him to rape kids. Daniels, who made two monetary donations to Yes on 8, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Rio Linda in Sacramento County.

3. Have we mentioned that there’s no hope for ENDA or DOMA in the new Congress?

—  John Wright

Anti-Gay Christianist Groups Vow To Force Congress To Reverse Repeal Of DADT

Led by the Liberty Counsel, a coalition of anti-gay Christianist hate groups today signed on to a letter vowing to force the next Congress to reverse today’s repeal of DADT. Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver rants:

“This action will be overturned in the next Congress because it breaks the bond of trust that must exist between the military and those who command in the Pentagon and Congress. Today’s vote will prove as costly to its proponents as ObamaCare was to its advocates. We promise a full mobilization of faith-based and policy organizations, veterans, and military families in the states of every Senator who voted for repeal of DADT against the advice of our service chiefs and during a time of war. Those Senators – and the Pentagon leaders responsible for this breach of trust – should understand that they will be the object of concerted political action against them.”

Among the groups signing the letter:

National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Teen Mania Ministries, American Association of Christian Counselors, Let Freedom Ring, Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, American Family Association, Family Research Council; Liberty Counsel, Liberty Alliance Action, Vision America, The Oak Initiative, The Call to Action, Concerned Women for America, High Impact Leadership Coalition, Campaign for Working Families, Conservative Action Project, Traditional Values Coalition, Renewing American Leadership, Conservative HQ, Constitution Party, Bott Radio Network, Center for Military Readiness.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Accuracy in Media calls for Congress to investigate Obama admin for ‘un-American activities’

Gun up the DeLorean and let’s take a ride in the time machine to the 1950s, courtesy of Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid.

Kincaid suggests establishing in the new Congress a “House Internal Security Committee,” which sounds curiously like the (House Un-American Activities Committee). Yes, the fringe right has officially called for the raising of Zombie Senator Joseph McCarthy to take care of Nazi Muslim Socialist Humanist Black Panther influences that have taken over our government. (via Right Wing Watch):

Some conservatives have belatedly discovered that Obama has socialist and anti-colonial views. But that is not even half the story. The most important part of the story remains to be investigated by the FBI and, hopefully, by a new House Internal Security Committee. Re-establishment of this committee will demonstrate that the new Congress means business and that it won’t resort to politics as usual and compromise.

All of this requires that the new Congress takes its responsibilities seriously, not only on fiscal issues, but on matters involving the national security and moral integrity of the United States. The liberals will raise a hue and cry, and some conservatives may balk, but it is mandatory and necessary to begin addressing what an old congressional committee used to call “un-American activities” at the highest levels of the U.S. Government.

Perhaps while they are at it, they can call in McCarthy’s gay self-loathing BFF Zombie Roy Cohn to complete the deal.

So who will take on the McCarthy and Cohn roles in the new Congress if Kincaid’s idea takes flight?
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Sec Def Gates laments that Congress likely won’t repeal DADT this year

STFU. I’ve seriously had enough of that idiot. It’s his fault that we’re still even talking about DADT, because he wanted a study, and he wanted the study to be finished AFTER the elections, blah blah blah. And the President gave in to every single demand. And now, Gates is lamenting that Congress – get that, CONGRESS – may stop DADT from being repealed.

Spare us the crocodile tears.

If this DADT compromise isn’t passed in the next few weeks, it’s all going to be on Barack Obama’s head for deciding to wait until 2010, and then deciding to cave to his Secretary of Defense over and over again.

As I mention below, Senator Reid has his own share of blame in this ongoing fiasco (as do HRC and all of the apologists). But in the end, repeal of DADT was one man’s promise, the President’s. And it’s increasingly looking like he blew it again.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

SHOCKER: With Pentagon study complete, Sen. Cornyn has new excuse for opposing DADT repeal

Sen. John Cornyn

With the Pentagon study on repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” to be released today, we inquired of Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s office whether he believes it would now be prudent to move forward on this issue during the lame duck session of Congress. After all, Cornyn told us in June he didn’t believe Congress should act on DADT repeal until the study was complete.

Here’s the response we received moments ago from Cornyn spokesman Kevin McClaughlin:

“There are a handful of time sensitive issues that must be addressed during lame duck. A continuing resolution to fund the government, the medicare reimbursement rate also known as the ‘doc fix,’ and preventing every American from incurring a massive tax increase on the first of the year just to name a few. Sen. Cornyn believes these things should be the focus of the lame duck session.’

So there you have it. Repealing a discriminatory policy that hurts the military and is opposed by the vast majority of Americans is simply not a priority for our junior senator, who by every indication will be joining his party’s filibuster of the Defense spending bill to which the DADT amendment is attached. A better question at this point would probably be whether Cornyn will introduce toxic anti-gay amendments to the Defense bill if Democrats can overcome the filibuster — such as a measure to overturn same-sex marriage in D.C. If you’ll remember, this is what Cornyn tried to do with health care reform.

We still haven’t heard back on a similar inquiry to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office, but don’t get your hopes up.

—  John Wright