WASHINGTON, DC - The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its annual National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday 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 Servicemembers Legal Defense Network 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 commonsense 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,” Sarvis said. “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.”

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,” Sarvis added. “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.” 

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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