Late Thursday evening, the U.S. Senate passed a $662 billion defense authorization bill — without any amendments redefining marriage.
Democrats, who a few weeks ago approved a bill repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through the Senate Judiciary Committee, had contemplated attaching Sen. Diane Feinstein’s Respect Marriage Act to the defense bill as a way of forcing it through, even though it wasn’t popular enough to pass on its own merits as a stand-alone bill.
In order to pass the defense spending bill at all, the Senate dropped 71 pending amendments at the last minute. The $117 billion senators approved, on a 93-7 vote, for war spending is $1 billion less than the Pentagon requested.
Meanwhile, a group representing more than 2,000 military chaplains expressed their thankfulness over a Senate vote that took place Tuesday, ensuring they will not be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies on military bases in the wake of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The amendment clarifying that chaplains won’t be forced to perform those duties, sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., was added to the defense authorization bill Wednesday.
The Wicker amendment, which allows chaplains to decline performing same-sex ceremonies in states where such unions are deemed legal, is slightly different from a bill passed by the House of Representatives, which contains much stronger language prohibiting chaplains from taking part in same-sex ceremonies, as well as a ban on same-sex ceremonies on any federal property. The two versions are headed to a conference committee, where compromises will be worked out.
“Both have their place in getting discussion and dialogue going on the matter,” said Douglas E. Lee of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. “Whatever comes out, we want a freedom of conscience clause that truly protects enlisted men and chaplains so they can freely express their faith. I’d say this is the beginning of the end of ensuring there’s freedom of conscience for chaplains and troops. So we’re encouraged, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Since Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, chaplains, officers and enlisted service members alike have been subjected to a “ culture of fear” created by gay activists, Lee said.
“The other day, a Christian sailor was talking to a buddy at a public lunch room about the repeal, and a homosexual near them overheard them,” he said. “He got up and publicly berated them, then reported them to a senior supervisor. The supervisor talked to one of the chaplains about it to find out what he could say to the homosexual. He’d already talked to the Christian about it, but now he had no idea what he could say to the other guy. There’s a real culture of fear that’s growing in the military and other federal institutions. Commanders aren’t clear how to handle certain things and religious liberty is being threatened, so we just keep on being alert.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Review the national poll results on the repeal of DADT.
Read Lt. Col. Bob McGinnis’ summary of the bias in the Pentagon survey.