Defense bill could give license to discriminate against gay service members

Expanded "conscience protections" in the National Defense Authorization Act condone harassment, advocates say

Published June 6, 2013 1:05PM (EDT)


The Armed Service Committee adopted an amendment Wednesday night to expand the "conscience protections" in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), offering a license to discriminate against gay service members and effectively undermining the implementation of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal, critics say.

The amendment, submitted by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), offers subtle but significant changes to the original conscience clause, adding language protecting "actions and speech" that would make it more difficult to discipline service members for anti-gay discrimination, according to OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson:

The military already has in place policies that adequately protect a service member’s personal beliefs while also protecting unit cohesion and good order and discipline. This amendment is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to sabotage the climate of inclusion and respect for all that our Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense have called for in our military, and would create a license to bully, harass, and discriminate against service members based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, or any number of other characteristics.

"As someone who has led soldiers in the field, I can tell you that is an untenable situation,” added Robinson.

The Senate will begin debating a version of the bill later this month.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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