The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved its version of the 2012 defense authorization bill -- one that calls for the repeal of a military sodomy law and omits antigay amendments that had passed in the House bill last month.
Of particular interest in the bill is the proposed repeal of Article 125, the military's law banning certain sex acts between consenting adults. Legal scholars and advocacy groups have criticized the more-than-a-century-old law in the Uniform Code of Military Justice as outdated. In 2009 the Commission on Military Justice advocated for its repeal a second time (it first did so in 2001).
According to the text of Article 125, "Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense."
Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said Friday, "By proactively acting to remove Article 125 from the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Senate Armed Services Committee has also reaffirmed that it is committed to modernizing the U.S. military and its personnel policies, and to removing outdated provisions that have long been viewed as unnecessary and even ridiculous by military commanders on the ground."
The Senate bill also does not include language that would seek to delay "don't ask, don't tell" repeal or bar gay service members from access to military facilities for wedding ceremonies in states where marriage equality is legal. Such language is contained in the House bill.
In a Friday conference call with reporters, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin said there had been no effort among committee members to offer antigay amendments similar to those already passed in the House; he said he would "strongly oppose" such amendments were they to be offered on the Senate floor. The White House also opposes the House amendments.
Asked about the possibility of antigay amendments still being offered to the defense bill, one Senate aide said a floor strategy to deal with any such action "is currently under way," while another Senate source said he did not believe antigay amendments would be brought up on the floor.