Obama issues signing statement on gay-bashing-lite “conscience clause” in DOD bill

From Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade we learn that the President has issued a signing statement in an attempt to water-down an anti-gay, anti- “Dont Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, “conscience clause” in the DOD bill:

President Obama signed into law a $633 billion package of major Pentagon budget legislation on Wednesday that includes a “conscience” provision prohibiting troops for being punished for their beliefs as he maintained the language “will not alter” the rights of gay service members. … The provision is a watered-down version of an amendment inserted into the House version of the bill by outgoing Rep. W. Todd Akin (R-Mo.). The House language gave even greater leeway to troops and military chaplains and had more anti-gay overtones.

The provision is creepy, and clearly a Republican swipe at gay service members.  The thing we don’t know if whether the provision is meaningful or not.  As Chris Johnson notes, the language got watered down in the final bill – which is something our side often tries to do with anti-gay language, water it down to the point of meaningless – but the question remains as to whether the provision will be used to permit bigotry against gay troops.  More form Chris Johnson:

CNN’s coverage of the DADT protest at the White House todayA bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers agreed to include the provision, known as Section 533, as part of the conference report for the defense legislation. At the time, most LGBT groups called the language disheartening, but determined it would have no substantive impact  on gay service members. However, the American Civil Liberties Union had strong objections to the language, saying it could lead to claims to discriminate and to opt-out of anti-harassment training.

And there’s the rub.  The religious right has a long history of trying to pass these “conscience clauses” to permit bigots to opt out of civil rights laws, and in essence force their religion down your throat.  They’ve been making the same effort for health care providers, be they pharmacists, ER doctors, or ambulance EMTs.  The religious right keeps trying to pass language saying that any health care provider can say “no” if the treatment offends their religious sensibilities.  Well, guess what an far-right fire-breathing evangelical, or mormon, EMT is going to do the next time he arrives at the home of a gay married couple.  Enter a homosexual den of sin?  I don’t think so.

And what about the military?  It wasn’t so long ago that evangelicals used the Bible and mormons used the Book of Mormon to “prove” that blacks were inferior.  What if a white evangelical or mormon service member says it’s against his religion to serve with someone black?  What if they say it’s against their religion to serve with someone gay?  Or to bunk with them in a submarine?  Where will DOD draw the line, and how will it draw the line, on the militant bigotry of evangelicals and mormons (and some catholics) who simply hate gays with such a passion that they will use any justification they can find to hurt gay people?

gangofsix_dadtKeep in mind that baptists think catholics worship Satan.  Does this provision mean that a baptist military chaplain can refuse to work with catholic troops?  As for Muslims, is it really that much of a stretch to imagine a Republican chaplain of any faith having issues with Muslim troops?  And don’t even get started on Mormons – lots of people consider them nothing more than a cult.  What does the conscience clause say about being forced to work with what your God considers a cultist?

And what about a gay chaplain who’s asked to see a service member who’s invoked the conscience clause because of his religious conviction that gays are going to hell.  Can the gay chaplain then invoke the conscience clause to get out of helping the bigoted service member?

My suggestion, when Republicans try to pass this kind of garbage, is to push its implementation to the extreme, and watch it crumble.  If the Republicans want to give our troops, and chaplains, the excuse to opt-out of this and that “because of their religion,” then opt away, I say.  Against them.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • toomanybooks

    As I read it, it seemed the writer was saying it would be unfair/ridiculous to discriminate against Mormons because someone thought they were a cult, just as it would be to discriminate against gay people. At least in that passage. Can’t speak for the rest of the article. I suppose the author was making the point that quite a few religious groups are traditionally or stereotypically against homosexuality, but they were against each other as well, so there are lots of ways the “conscience clause” could come into play and cause trouble.

  • I Support

    I first want to make it cear that i am gay myself. There is a reason for DADT. In the millitary a platoon is your family and you dont want to be fighting with your “family” in a life or death situation because one of the men is gay. It also is homophobic but has another purpose. I believe that this clause is appropriate and maybe nesseasary. Also that line about babtist thinking. Otholics worship satan is not true at all. I ama a babtist myself and have never encountered anyone who thought that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hales-Swift/17818964 Hales Swift

    cult huh? Fortunately, a large number of uninformed people thinking something about you doesn’t make it so. See: http://en.fairmormon.org/Why_it%27s_great_to_be_a_Mormon:_the_benefits

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hales-Swift/17818964 Hales Swift

    This article makes a factually inaccurate claim: “It wasn’t so long ago that evangelicals used the Bible and mormons used the Book of Mormon to “prove” that blacks were inferior.” This is inaccurate (among perhaps other reasons) because there are no people of African descent in the Book of Mormon, and dark skinned people in the Book of Mormon were considered just as pleasing to God as light-skinned people if they chose to follow God. This author is too busy ranting to check facts.

  • homophile

    You mean what happens every time already?

  • http://blogvader.tumblr.com/ Blogvader

    The EMT’s who ‘treated’ Tyra Hunter ‘opted out’ of providing her care that would have saved her life because they were too busy expressing their ‘conscience’ to provide her with life-saving treatment. One of the bastards even got a promotion.

    FUCK conscience clauses. This kind of hateful bullshit incenses me. They tried to immunize religious bullying in my state (Missouri) last year and the only thing that stopped them was one (extremely brave) closeted Republican legislator in the state house who opted to come out of the closet, literally, in opposition to it.

    People who can’t bring themselves to do their jobs due to personal biases need to find another fucking career.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=644669437 Richard Wyatt

    I knew Obama was gonna disappoint me, but could he at least waited till after the BCS championship game had ended first.

  • Freethinker01

    Do “freedom of conscience” and “freedom of association” mean nothing to homophiles? If the tables were turned, would you and your homosexual pals appreciate being forced to believe things counter to your value set?

  • Ford Prefect

    John, you do realize that signing statements are meaningless, right? It’s just PR.

    He signed off on the damn thing anyway, right along with indefinite detention. It is now law and his signing statement isn’t law.

    It must be great for him to have it both ways.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Unfortunately, no. The plutocratic bastards won, again. Which was a foregone conclusion whichever of the presidential candidates and his party happened to prevail in the election results.

  • GlennF

    And Obama and the Democrats in the Congress and Senate let the rethuglican’s bigoted clause remain in the bill. And Obama signs it. I thought we won in November.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    What about the bigoted sergeant who says he doesn’t want any African Americans gays serving in his platoon? Can he just say no, he won’t allow it, and have this provision protect him from punishment or sanction? Or, let’s say his superior officer won’t allow the transfers, so this sergeant deliberately and maliciously gives poor performance reports for any soldier he suspects is gay, as long as he says, “I believe that being gay is wrong, and therefore makes Private Smith’s performance in my platoon unacceptably poor?”

    We knew that failing to have anti-discrimination language in the DADT repeal was a bad idea. Now the GOP bigots in Congress are going out of their way to ensure there WILL be discrimination.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Downer Obots arrow here. Jerks

  • JR

    Lol! I’m sure he will “evolve” on this issue.

  • basenjilover

    I had been right about Obama and very glad I didn’t vote for him. Regardless if clause gets watered down, he signed it. Obama and his ilks stab us in back every chance they get.

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