Secular Coalition Urges Senate to Strike Discriminatory Language from Defense Authorization Act

Washington, DC—The Secular Coalition for America today urged the U.S. Senate to not include language that protects religiously-based discrimination in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act. The U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 4310, the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2013.

In a press release Tuesday, the Secular Coalition announced its opposition to Sections 537 and 538 which could allow individuals to harass LGBT service members without repercussion and prohibits the use of military facilities for any marriage or commitment ceremonies for gay and lesbian members of the Armed Forces.

The White House released a statement Tuesday in agreement with the Secular Coalition’s stance, in which the amendments were referred to as “troublesome” and a “potentially unconstitutional limitation on religious liberty.”

“President Obama recognizes that these amendments are potentially unconstitutional, and we hope that the Senate will too–and in turn, snuff out this discriminatory language” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “It’s unconscionable that those who claim to defend ‘religious liberty’ are attempting to redefine that term to excuse homophobic, discriminatory, and harassing actions as well as infringe on the religious liberty of chaplains who support marriage equality and wish to solemnize the commitments of LGBT service members.”

The two amendments were offered by U.S. Representatives Todd Akin (R-MO) and Steven Palazzo (R-MS). Akin and Palazzo claim that the amendments were added to the NDAA as a "necessary protection of religious liberty." In a statement released by his office, Akin said that the amendments would protect service members who "are facing recrimination for their sincerely held moral and religious beliefs."

Opponents of this exception have called it a "license to bully" because it carves out a special exemption to protect potential harassment and bullying of LGBT service members, based on religious beliefs. It also opens the door to other types of harassment, including that of nontheistic service members.

 

 

CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA communications manager …….. 202-299-1091 ext. 205 or lauren@secular.org

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