(WASHINGTON, DC) Today, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) passed its annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) without the adoption of harmful amendments that are included in the House version of the bill seeking to limit the use of Department of Defense facilities, affect military chaplains, and undermine successful "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal implementation. Army veteran and SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis praised Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the Senate for keeping these provisions out of the annual defense spending bill.
"SLDN and our allies have been working on Capitol Hill this year to encourage the Senate Armed Services Committee to pass a common-sense defense spending bill that does not seek to turn the clock back on the progress we have made in this first year of implementation of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal. We now turn our attention to making sure the full Senate passes the committee bill and that the harmful language included in the House version is stripped away in conference committee," said Sarvis.
The House passed its version of the NDAA on May 18 and included two harmful amendments put forth by opponents of LGBT military equality. The first would give so-called "conscience protections" to chaplains and service members who do not wish to minister and work with gay and lesbian service members. A threat to military readiness and unit cohesion, this amendment would allow service members to actively harass their fellow comrades for their perceived or actual sexual orientation. It would allow chaplains to discriminate against service members by religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, or any other religious belief simply by arguing that ministering to them would be contrary to their "conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs."
A second amendment adopted to the House version of the bill would limit the use of Department of Defense property for same-gender marriage ceremonies.
"The Department of Defense has already made it clear - and appropriately so - that decisions about the use of facilities should be made on a sexual orientation neutral basis. This is yet another attempt by a few opponents of military equality who are looking to turn the clock back on progress and relegate gay and lesbian service members to second-class status," said Sarvis.
ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America's military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. Since 1993, our in-house legal team has responded to more than 11,000 requests for assistance. To learn more, visit www.sldn.org .
SLDN FREE HOTLINE: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: Call 1-800-538-7418 or 202-328-3244 x100.