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OPINION

NEWS BRIEFS: House panel OKs ban on military 'gay marriages'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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WASHINGTON (BP)--A U.S. House of Representatives committee passed legislation May 12 that includes a ban on the performance of "gay marriages" by military chaplains on base.

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The amendment was part of the annual Defense authorization bill, which the House Armed Services Committee passed, 60-1.

Before final passage of the bill, the panel approved with the following roll calls these amendments related to homosexuality and military service:

-- 38-23 for a proposal by Rep. Todd Akin, R.-Mo., to prohibit Department of Defense (DOD) personnel from officiating at "same-sex marriages" and to bar the use of military facilities for such ceremonies.

-- 33-27 for an amendment by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R.-Calif., to require the heads of all four branches of the military to certify that lifting the ban on open homosexuality in the armed forces will not harm their ability to conduct war.

-- 39-22 for a proposal by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R.-Mo., to mandate all DOD programs abide by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage in federal law as being between a man and a woman.

The passage of Akin's amendment came on the heels of a controversy surrounding the Navy and "gay marriage." The Navy initially gave authorization for chaplains to perform "same-sex marriage" ceremonies on base, only to reverse court May 10 after a sharp rebuke from Akin and 62 other House members. Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Mark Tidd said he was suspending his authorization "pending additional legal and policy review" and enhanced cooperation with other branches of the military, The Washington Post reported.

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The House members charged the new policy would violate DOMA, even though it would apply only to states that had legalized "same-sex marriage."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, applauded the Armed Services Committee "for affirming that federal law trumps the demands of those who would use the military to advance a liberal social agenda."

Hunter's amendment would add additional requirements to a law approved in December that overturned what is known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- the 1993 law that prohibited homosexuals from serving openly in the armed forces. The current law calls for only President Obama, as well as the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, to certify the policy change will not harm the military.

Rep. John Garamendi, D.-Calif., was the only representative to oppose the overall bill.

SYRIA DROPPED FROM UN HUMAN RIGHTS SLATE

Syria, where government security forces have killed more than 750 civilians in a seven-week crackdown on popular uprisings, will not be nominated for a seat on the U.N.'s top human rights body.

The initial plan to nominate Syria, announced March 9, sparked intense opposition from human rights groups and many governments, the rights group UN Watch said in a report on its website. Kuwait reportedly will replace Syria in the balloting, which is scheduled for May 20, according to the Associated Press.

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Syria was one of four candidates selected to fill seats on the 47-member Human Rights Council, the AP reported. It was likely to win the seat unless challenged by another candidate or unless the 192-member General Assembly failed to ratify the slate.

UN Watch praised the decision to drop Syria from the ballot but expressed concern that Kuwait is "far better than Syria, but another non-democracy nevertheless," the AP said.

In a May 10 statement on its website, unwatch.org, the organization said diplomatic efforts by the United States, France and other major democracies forced the change. "Regrettably, however, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and many other dictatorships remain on the U.N. council, shielding fellow abusers and fostering selectivity and politicization," the statement said.

Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press, and Mark Kelly, assistant editor of Baptist Press.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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