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The Department of Defense bill approved by the Senate and sent back to the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday could invalidate aspects of local antidiscrimination laws, says openly gay U.S. Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts. One provision, which Frank said is in the version heading toward President Bush's desk for signature, would make it illegal for communities and campuses to deny public building access to organizations that openly discriminate against gays and lesbians, such as the Boy Scouts of America.
"I just want to call attention to one wholly irrelevant provision, irrelevant to the defense," Frank said during debate on the House floor on Wednesday. "The Boy Scouts of America have been found by states and cities to be violating their antidiscrimination policies with regard to both sexual orientation and religion, and some cities have said that they do not want anyone who fails to follow their state or city's policy getting free facilities. That, I suppose, can be debated or not as to whether it is right or wrong, but it does not seem to me that there is any argument for having it in the Armed Services provision that says to every city in America you will let the Boy Scouts use your facilities for free whether or not you think they violate the law against discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation."
The bill sailed through the House last weekend. Frank tried unsuccessfully to remove the provision at a meeting finalizing the bill, but negotiators from both the House and Senate overruled him. Currently, numerous communities and campuses bar discriminatory groups such as the Boy Scouts from using public facilities. (Advocate.com)