Obama Calls GOP's Conscience Clause Unnecessary, Ill-Advised
President Obama made clear on Wednesday while signing a new Defense budget that he doesn't agree with a Republican attempt to sidestep marriage equality that is tucked inside.
"Though I continue to oppose certain sections of the Act, the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore," the president said in a statement upon signing the annual Defense Authorization Act.
Outgoing Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri largely failed in his final attempt in December to ban same-sex weddings on military bases and to stop military chaplains from officiating. His language passed through the Republican-led House but not the Senate and was mostly stripped during a conference between the two.
What remains, though, is Section 533. It is a "conscience clause" aimed at military chaplains that guarantees they can't be forced to officiate a same-sex wedding. The clause was widely attacked as a waste of time by LGBT activists and by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who pointed out that existing military policy already ensured officiating any wedding is voluntary.
“It’s a fraud,” Pelosi said in May. “Welcome to the world of manufactured crises. Here’s one.”
In the president's statement upon signing the law, he said he supports "the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act" but "I do not agree with them all." He specifically called out Section 533 as "unnecessary and ill-advised."
"The military already appropriately protects the freedom of conscience of chaplains and service members," Obama said. "The Secretary of Defense will ensure that the implementing regulations do not permit or condone discriminatory actions that compromise good order and discipline or otherwise violate military codes of conduct. My Administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that."