BREAKING: U.S. House committee adopts 3 anti-gay amendments to military spending bill

As expected, the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee voted tonight to adopt three anti-gay amendments to the 2012 Defense Authorization Act.

The committee voted 33-27 to adopt an amendment by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., that would require all five service chiefs to certify that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” won’t harm the military’s readiness before repeal is implemented. Under the DADT repeal measure passed last year, only the president, the Defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify DADT repeal.

The committee voted by a larger margin, 39-22, to approve an amendment from Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., that would reaffirm that the Defense of Marriage Act applies to the Department of Defense.

Finally, the committee voted 38-23 vote to approve an amendment from Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo. that would prohibit same-sex marriages on military property. Akin’s amendment would also prohibit military chaplains and civilian employees from officiating same-sex marriages.

All three amendments now proceed to the full House.

“Make no mistake, these amendments are meant to slow down open service and perpetuate scare tactics about the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a press release.  “Republicans should stop playing politics by standing in the way of all Americans being able to serve their country equally.”

“As the process moves forward, we call on all lawmakers to stop these side shows and get back to the real work on which Americans so desperately want them to focus,” Solmonese added.

Servicemembers United Executive Director Alexander Nicholson issued a statement responding specifically to the committee’s adoption of Hunter’s amendment.

“Despite the passage of this amendment within the ever-hostile House Armed Services Committee, it is highly unlikely that such an amendment would ever pass the Senate and be signed by the President,” Nicholson said. “The offering of this amendment was a shameful and embarrassing waste of time. The service chiefs have unequivocally said that they do not want this extra burden forced upon them, so if Congress really values their advice on this issue they should take it and forget this unnecessary and unwanted amendment.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the following:

“The amendments adopted tonight during mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act in the U.S. House related to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ represent nothing less than an assault on our nation’s senior military leaders and rank-and-file service members, who are marching toward open military service successfully,” Sarvis said. “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 NDAA where they have no place. Make no mistake — 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.”

—  John Wright

Boning up on the 4 anti-gay measures expected to be introduced in Congress on Wednesday

Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., wants to accommodate servicemembers who object to open service based on their religious beliefs.

Earlier we noted that Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., plans to introduce an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would broaden the certifcation requirement for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We also mentioned another anti-gay amendment from Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., that would prohibit same-sex weddings from being performed in military chapels. Since then, two additional anti-gay amendments have emerged, including one designed to accommodate religion-based homophobia in the armed forces. All of the amendments are expected to be introduced Wednesday when the House Armed Services Committee marks up the Defense Authorization Act. Below is a fact sheet on all four anti-gay amendments from the Human Rights Campaign.

Amendment by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) – Expand Certification

Rep. Hunter is expected to offer an amendment that would expand the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” certification process by requiring certification by the five service chiefs.  The process created by the repeal bill passed last year and currently underway requires the Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to certify that the military is prepared for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before the law is removed from the books.

Expanded certification is unnecessary. On December 2, 2010, the Secretary of Defense testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that “I would not sign any certification until I was satisfied with the advice of the service chiefs that we had, in fact, mitigated, if not eliminated, to the extent possible, risks to combat readiness, to unit cohesion and effectiveness.”  In addition, all of the service chiefs have testified before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees that expanded certification is not necessary and that they are very comfortable with their ability to provide military advice to Secretary Gates and have it heard. Finally, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is included in the certification process and serves as an additional voice for all of the service chiefs.

—  John Wright