|Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis
Army veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis issued the following statement in response to the adoption of harmful amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that threaten to delay and derail repeal implementation of ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt Ask/ Don‚Äôt Tell‚ÄĚ (DA/DT), the ban on queers serving openly in the military.
‚ÄúThe amendments adopted during mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act in the U.S. House related to the repeal of ‚ÄėDon‚Äôt Ask/ Don‚Äôt Tell‚Äô represent nothing less than an assault on our nation‚Äôs senior military leaders and rank-and-file service members, who are marching toward open military service successfully.‚ÄĚ He argued these adopted amendments to delay and derail repeal were a partisan political attempt to interject the same-sex marriage debate and other unrelated social issues into the NDAA where they have no place.
‚ÄúMake no mistake ‚Äď these votes should be a wake-up call to supporters of open service that our work is not done,‚ÄĚ Sarvis warned. ‚ÄúOur commitment to timely certification and repeal must be redoubled as we move to the House floor to defend the progress we have made to ensure that LGB patriots can defend and serve the country they love with honesty and integrity.‚ÄĚ
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network was established in 1993 when ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt Ask‚ÄĚ originally passed. In addition to working on repeal, SLDN offers free, confidential legal services to those impacted by the discriminatory law. Last year the organization received its 10,000th call for assistance to its legal hotline.
Prior to this occurrence, in the final hours before mark-up of the annual National Defense Authorization Act in the House Armed Services Committee, SLDN had released a letter that was sent to HAS Committee members.
In the letter, Sarvis had directly addressed expected amendments prompted by the release of guidance by the Navy regarding same-sex marriages and the use of chapels on naval bases. Specifically, on April 13, the Navy Chief of Chaplains had issued guidance to Chaplains and Religious Program Specialists regarding use of base facilities following repeal of ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt Ask/ Don‚Äôt Tell‚ÄĚ and found ‚Äúbase facility use is sexual orientation neutral.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThat legal advice to Chaplains was prudent and correct,‚ÄĚ wrote Sarvis. ‚ÄúThe guidance does not mandate that a Chaplain is required to perform any marriage ceremony on or off post, and Chaplains will be free to decline to do so, just as they are free today to do so with respect to any marriage.‚ÄĚ
Sarvis noted that the Chief of Chaplains‚Äô guidance was based upon legal advice received from Navy legal counsel, which clearly took into consideration the legal requirements of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Chief‚Äôs guidance and Navy Legal counsel were wholly consistent with DOMA, he said.
‚ÄúTo suggest that a Chaplain would violate DOMA by voluntarily taking part in such a ceremony and, perhaps, that a service member would be acting illegally by entering into a same-sex union is an incorrect reading of the law. DOMA does not purport to restrict individual activities ‚Äď it merely deals with what recognition the federal government will give to them,‚ÄĚ said Sarvis.
Anticipated amendments related to this topic Sarvis had said were likely to be offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and. Todd Akin (R-MO) to reaffirm and restate DOMA provisions should be opposed.
‚ÄúTo bring the DOMA debate into the NDAA mark-up is an unprecedented step taken by those eager to interject cultural issues into the funding authorization for our armed forces,‚ÄĚ Sarvis had said.
Sarvis had urged members to oppose both amendments as well as all other amendments that would undermine the repeal process.
‚ÄúThese amendments represent a not-so-subtle attack upon the senior leadership of the Department of Defense while, at the same time, undermine the men and women in uniform who are undertaking with the highest degree of professionalism the very assignment they were given by the previous Congress,‚ÄĚ Sarvis had concluded.
As always, SLDN warns that despite President Barack Obama signing the bill authorizing repeal of DA/DT, it is still unsafe for service members to come out until 60 days after certification by President Obama, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen.
Meanwhile lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney at (202) 328-3244 x100.