The Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate
late Thursday overwhelmingly (93-7) approved a $662 billion defense
authorization bill that excludes two proposed anti-gay amendments.
The amendments, which were earlier
approved in the House-passed bill, would overrule Pentagon guidance
that allows military chaplains to officiate over the marriages of gay
service members in states where it is legal.
In a memo issued by Under Secretary of
Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley, chaplains may
officiate the marriage and civil union ceremonies of gay couples,
including on a military installation.
The amendments, sponsored by Republican
Representatives Vicky Hartzer and Todd Akin of Missouri, stated that
the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law which bars federal
agencies and the military from recognizing the legal marriages of gay
couples, prohibits the use of military facilities and the
participation of military personnel in such ceremonies.
Altogether the Senate dropped 71
pending amendments, which could be introduced separately next week.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which worked to repeal
“Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” called the move “responsible.”
“SLDN is pleased the Senate has taken
a responsible path and passed its National Defense Authorization Act
without harmful language included by the House that is really nothing
more than an assault on our nation's senior military leaders and
rank-and-file service members, who are implementing 'Don't Ask, Don't
Tell' successfully. The House version represents a partisan
political attempt to interject the same-sex marriage debate and other
unrelated social issues into the NDAA where they have no place. At
SLDN, we urge the leadership to appoint conferees who will see this
stunt for what it is and reject this language in conference.”
The bill must be reconciled with the
House version in conference committee before a final version can go
to the president for his signature.