The U.S House of Representatives last week passed, and sent to the Senate, HR 4310, the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (full text.) The bill contains two provisions relating to same-sex unions and to broader issues of conscience rights in relation to gays and lesbians. Section 536 of the bill provides in part:
(a) Protection of Rights of Conscience- The Armed Forces shall accommodate the conscience and sincerely held moral principles and religious beliefs of the members of the Armed Forces concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality and may not use such conscience, principles, or beliefs as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.....
(b) Protection of Chaplains- .... (2) No member of the Armed Forces may--
(A) direct, order, or require a chaplain to perform any duty, rite, ritual, ceremony, service, or function that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain, or contrary to the moral principles and religious beliefs of the endorsing faith group of the chaplain; or
(B) discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain, including denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment, on the basis of the refusal by the chaplain to comply with a direction, order, or requirement prohibited by subparagraph (A)....Section 537 of the bill provides:
A military installation or other property owned or rented by, or otherwise under the jurisdiction or control of, the Department of Defense may not be used to officiate, solemnize, or perform a marriage or marriage-like ceremony involving anything other than the union of one man with one woman.Last week the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy objecting to several provisions in the bill. The Statement says in part:
The Administration strongly objects to sections 536 and 537 because those provisions adopt unnecessary and ill-advised policies that would inhibit the ability of same-sex couples to marry or enter a recognized relationship under State law. Section 536 would prohibit all personnel-related actions based on certain religious and moral beliefs, which, in its overbroad terms, is potentially harmful to good order and discipline. Section 537 would obligate DOD to deny Service members, retirees, and their family members access to facilities for religious ceremonies on the basis of sexual orientation, a troublesome and potentially unconstitutional limitation on religious liberty.
LifeSite News on Tuesday reported on the controversy over these provisions.