A handful of Republicans on Capitol Hill are again attempting to write discrimination into U.S. military code with a bill introduced in the House of Representatives last week.
The "Military Religious Freedom Protection Act" introduced by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) would amend military code in order to protect the "rights of conscience of members of the Armed Forces and chaplains." In the bill's attempt to protect those religious freedoms, same-sex weddings would be banned from taking place on any military installation.
The proposed legislation comes more than a year after the implementation of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which assessments by the Defense Department and others indicate has not negatively impacted the military in any way.
However, for advocates who fought the ban on out gay servicemembers, Huelskamp's bill is a desperate attempt to open the door to discrimination in the military.
"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," OutServe-SLDN spokesman Zeke Stokes told Metro Weekly. "This bill seeks to address a problem that doesn't exist."
In many ways, the bill resembles what was a final attempt by former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) last year to include a similar "conscience clause" in the $633 billion Pentagon budget. Advocates believed the provision was an attempt to permit harassment as well as ban same-sex weddings from occurring on military bases, despite a Defense Department policy that already ensures no chaplain can be forced to perform a same-sex marriage.
While Akin's anti-gay provision was ultimately watered down considerably, unnecessary protections for servicemembers' and chaplains' religious beliefs that already exist were still included in the 680-page defense authorization bill signed by President Barack Obama in January.
At the time, Obama said Section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act was "an unnecessary and ill-advised provision, as the military already appropriately protects the freedom of conscience of chaplains and service members." Although military chaplains are not required to perform any ceremonies contrary to their "conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs," same-sex military couples — much like their straight counterparts — may marry on military installations.
"This proposal needs to be seen for what it is – a naked attempt to undermine DADT repeal and open service by green lighting discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual service members," ACLU Legislative Representative Ian Thompson said of Huelskamp's bill. "Given the acknowledged success of the transition to open service, including from the uniformed military leadership, this legislation could not be more ill-timed or ill-advised."
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has tried to ban same-sex weddings on military bases before, is a co-sponsor of the bill, as are Republican Reps. Tim Walberg (Mich.), Vicky Hartzler (Mo.), Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Louie Gohmert (Texas). Huelskamp's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
[Photo: Tim Huelskamp (Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)]
Read the bill here: