House Republicans are pushing to include an anti-gay provision in the final version of the annual defense spending bill, according to multiple reports.
Unnamed sources told the Washington Blade that House Republicans were seeking to including a so-called “conscience protection” clause in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013. Unnamed sources also told Mother Jones that Republicans were “pushing pretty hard” for the controversial provision, which was proposed by Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (R) and included in the House version of the bill.
The provision would require the U.S. military to “accommodate the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs of the members of the Armed Forces concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality.” The provision would protect military chaplains and other service members who do not wish to work with LGBT individuals.
LGBT rights advocates such as OutServe have warned the provision would permit harassment and discrimination of LGBT service members.
“The fact is, there are already strong protections for all service members, including chaplains, in place, and all this provision would do is create a license to discriminate,” Army veteran and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson said in a statement. “The next Secretary of Defense should not be saddled with a law that makes it harder for small unit commanders in the field to lead their troops.”
Though the provision was included in the House version of the defense spending bill, the Senate dropped the provision from the legislation. The bill is currently in a conference committee to hammer out the differences between the House and Senate versions.
A Senate Democratic aide told the Washington Blade he “would be very surprised” if House Republicans were able to get the provision included in the final version of the bill.
UPDATE: A watered-down version of the provision was included in the final bill on Tuesday evening, according to the Washington Blade. The watered-down version allows for anti-gay actions and speech to be disciplined, but prohibits the military from punishing a service member based solely on his or her beliefs.
“Basically, you can believe what you believe and not be punished for it, but if your actions based on those beliefs are counter to the Uniform Code of Military Justice or counter to what’s necessary, that can be held against you. But you can’t be punished solely for your beliefs,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) explained.