In one of his final acts in Congress, Missouri representative Todd Akin will make one last effort to add an antigay piece of legislation to this year's defense authorization bill.
Akin, who lost a controversial Senate race versus incumbent Claire McCaskill, wants to reintroduce a "conscience clause" to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would protect military personnel who do not condone homosexuality. According to the bill, which was first introduced in May, the federal government would have 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 Washington Blade reports.
House Republicans are backing the effort, possibly in exchange for another proposal that would prohibit same-sex couples from using Department of Defense facilities for marriage ceremonies.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has come out against the provision. Her spokesman Drew Hammill said the provision's language "is a completely unnecessary attempt to address a phantom problem. 'Don't ask, don't tell' is in the dustbin of history where it belongs, and Republicans need to stop trying to alter he tide of progress for gay and lesbian service members."
A source close to the negotiations in Congress said Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin strongly objects to the provision and it may not end up in the final bill language.
Allyson Robinson, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, said in a statement Monday that the provisions would open the door to harassment and discrimination in the ranks.
“As a former military commander, I can tell you that allowing any service member to openly discriminate against a comrade in this way will compromise good order and discipline – the very thing supporters of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ falsely claimed was going to happen back when we repealed the law," she said. "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. 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.”