Beginning at 8:35 p.m. Wednesday evening, May 11, the House Armed Services Committee reached the "military personnel" portion of today's committee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA markup began a little past 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, and the committee took breaks for meals and full House floor votes throughout the day before reaching the personnel issues in the evening, which included three amendments altering the current process for implementation of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act and addressing the Defense of Marriage Act.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) had his amendment considered first of the DADT-related amendments. His amendment would add to the certification process -- which currently requires the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to sign off on repeal -- the OK of the service branch chiefs.
Hunter introduced his amendment by saying that the only people who have to sign off on the certification, under the DADT Repeal Act, are "the president, who has never been to war or ground combat," as well as Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who Hunter said also has never been in ground combat, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who Hunter called a "political appointee."
The second amendment to be considered was that of Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who is aiming to reaffirm the Defense of Marriage Act in this year's NDAA.
The third amendment, considered a little before 11 p.m., was from Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), and would prohibit same-sex marriages to happen on military bases or be performed by military personnel.
Roll-call votes began a little past 11 p.m., first on an amendment unrelated to DADT that was offered by Hunter addressing special education for children of servicemembers.
Following that, Hunter's certification amendment was agreed to on a 33-27 vote.
Alex Nicholson, the executive director of Servicemembers United, said in a statement, "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. The offering of this amendment was a shameful and embarrassing waste of time."
He continued, "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."
Hartzler's DOMA reaffirmation amendment then was agreed to on a 39-22 vote. Finally, Akin's amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages from being performed on bases or by military personnel was agreed to on a 38-23 vote.
The amendments, which are now a part of the House committee's NDAA bill, still need to be approved by the full House. Additionally, the provisions would need to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama before they could become law.
Of all three amendments, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement, "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 added, "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."
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said in a statement, "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.' Republicans should stop playing politics by standing in the way of all Americans being able to serve their country equally."
Of the further steps needed before the amendments would become law, Solmonese said, "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."
[Image: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) chairs the markup of the National Defense Authorization Act.]
[NOTE: This post was edited throughout the evening, with final changes made at 12:30 a.m. Thursday, May 12.]