The House Armed Services Committee late
Wednesday OK'd an amendment to the defense budget that aims to slow
down repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the 1993 law that bans
gay and bisexual troops from serving openly.
The amendment, offered by Republican
Duncan Hunter of California, was adopted with a 33 to 27 vote.
Congress approved repeal of the law
during its lame-duck session in December. As approved, the military
would implement repeal of the law 60 days after President Barack
Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen –
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – certify that the
military is ready for the change. In testimony before Congress last
month, Pentagon officials said they expect the policy to be lifted
Hunter's measure would require the four
service chiefs also sign off on repeal of the policy.
The California Republican first
announced the measure in January, soon after the officials offered
testimony in support of keeping the law in place and condemned repeal
Marine Corps Commandant General James
Amos was the most vocal, but Air Force and Army chiefs also expressed
concerns over ending the policy.
Amos suggested that soldiers might die
if Congress repeals “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
“Mistakes and inattention or
distractions cost Marines lives,” he told the Pentagon's Stars
and Stripes. “That's the currency of this fight.”
“I take that very, very seriously,”
Amos added. “I don't want to lose any Marines to that distraction.
I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda
[National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the
results of any type of distraction.”
in testimony before Congress last month, Amos reversed course,
saying “there hasn't been the recalcitrant push back, there hasn't
been the anxiety over it from the forces in the field”
“And I'm looking specifically for
issues coming out of the tier II and tier III training and to be
honest with you, chairman, we've not seen it,” Amos testified.
Republicans opposed to repeal offered
two additional anti-gay amendments.
Missouri Representative Vicky
Hartzler's amendment would define marriage as a union between a man
and woman for the purpose of military benefits, regulations and
policy. It was approved on a 39-22 vote.
A third amendment would prohibit gay
and lesbian couples from marrying on military bases and ban military
personnel from participating in such ceremonies. Missouri
Representative Todd Akin offered his measure after the Navy announced
that chaplains would be allowed to officiate at gay marriages and
civil union ceremonies once “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” is lifted.
and 63 members of the Republican caucus forced the Navy to
reconsider. Akin's amendment was adopted with a 38 to 23 vote.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the largest group
lobbying for repeal, called the amendments an attempt to inject the
politics of the gay marriage debate into the repeal process.
“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
NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] where they have no place.”
“Make no mistake – these votes
should be a wake-up call to supporters of open service that our work
is not done,” he added.