House members attempt to delay DADT repeal

Amendments added to funding bill merely 'scare tactics,' say activists

By Lisa Keen

The full U.S. House Armed Services Committee approved three amendments on May 11 that seek to delay implementation of repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and to reiterate Congress's support for the Defense of Marriage Act.

The votes were largely along partisan lines and are unlikely to be sustained in the Democratic-controlled Senate, even if they are approved by the Republican-dominated House.

But the question is whether they might survive a Senate-House conference committee, when compromises have to be hammered out between the two increasingly contentious parties.

None of the proposed amendments sought to undo what Congress did last December when it passed legislation to repeal the military's ban on openly gay people, but each provided yet another forum for debate over repeal.

The committee debated for more than 40 minutes about an amendment to require that each of the chiefs of the four combat branches of the military provide written certification to Congress before repeal can be implemented. The amendment passed.

The committee also passed an amendment to reiterate that DOMA applies to the military, and another amendment to reiterate that decisions concerning use of military facilities and personnel for conducting same-sex wedding ceremonies are governed by DOMA.

"These adopted amendments to delay and derail repeal are a partisan political attempt to interject the same-sex marriage debate and other unrelated social issues into the (budget authorization legislation), where they have no place," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the amendments were intended "to slow down open service and perpetuate scare tactics about the repeal of DADT."

Three different Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee proposed the amendments during consideration of the annual bill authorizing how the Department of Defense can spend its funding. The overall bill is known as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or bill number H.R. 1540. Fiscal Year 2012 begins October 1.

Currently, President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen are expected to certify the military as ready to implement repeal of DADT this summer. The repeal would then take effect 60 days later. Given how difficult it has been for the Senate and House to agree on budget matters in recent months, it seems possible that the 60-day waiting period will expire and DADT will be repealed long before a Senate-House conference committee will have a chance to tackle the issues.

"Make no mistake," Sarvis said, "these votes should be a wake-up call to supporters of open service that our work is not done. Our commitment to timely certification and repeal must be redoubled as we move to the House floor to defend the progress we have made to ensure that LGB patriots can defend and serve the country they love with honesty and integrity."

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