Despite Plea from Obama Administration, Conference Committee Restores Military Ban on Sodomy, Bestiality

December 15, 2011 - 8:00 AM
Rep. Howard

Rep. Howard "Buck McKeon (R-Calif, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Despite a plea from the Obama administration that the military ban on sodomy and bestiality be repealed, a House-Senate conference committee has restored the ban to the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

The sodomy-bestiality ban would have been repealed by the version of the bill that had been approved by the Senate.

A spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee told CNSNews.com Wednesday that the Obama administration had “made its pitch” on repealing Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice related to sodomy--but the members of the conference committee “were not persuaded” that the change was needed.

Tom McClusky, vice president of government relations for the Family Research Council, praised House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), saying McKeon was one of the reasons why the Senate-passed provision did not wind up in the final conference report.

“Chairman McKeon has just been stellar during these whole negotiations--and he always is standing up for the troops--but from what I hear, he was the one most insistent that Article 125 stays,” McLusky told CNSNews.com.

Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice says that “(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense. (b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall by punished as a court-martial may direct.”

McClusky also credited public outrage directed at members of the Senate--who had voted 93-7 less than two weeks ago to repeal Article 125.

“I think the publicity surrounding it was probably why it was dropped,” he said.

“We were getting a lot of calls, even from our friends in the Senate, who didn’t realize just how serious an issue it was,” McClusky told CNSNews.com.

Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CNSNews.com last week that despite working many hours on the Senate version of the bill, he was unaware that it repealed the ban on sodomy and bestiality. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.), who is also a member of the Armed Services Committee, also said he was unaware that the bill his committee produced repealed the ban on sodomy and bestiality.

McCain and Graham both voted for the bill in the Senate. 

After CNSNews.com publicized the fact that the Senate bill would repeal the sodomy-bestiality ban, White House Spokesman Jay Carney mocked a reporter who asked him about the repeal at White House briefing.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) then sent a letter to Carney rebuking him for dealing with the issue "flippantly" and also another letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urging that the military's ban on bestiality be retained.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Service Members Legal Defense Network, a top homosexual activist group, said his group was disappointed that the conferees voted to keep Article 125 on the books.

“Dropping Article 125 has been recommended for more than a decade by SLDN and several groups, including the Cox Commission that includes distinguished legal scholars from the military and academia, as well as the Comprehensive Review Working Group,” Sarvis said in a statement Wednesday.

“The Senate was right to take this action, and it is unfortunate that their attempt to end Article 125 did not prevail. SLDN will continue to work with the Senate, House, and Department of Defense to bring about this needed change."

McClusky, meanwhile, said that the Obama administration is not likely to give up.

“I would expect we’ll see the Obama administration going after it again,” he said. “I don’t see how they lie down on this because this is something that for a lot of the homosexual groups whom the administration is beholden to, this is one of their top priorities,” he said.

However, there continues to be significant opposition in the House of Representatives to any effort to decriminalize sodomy and bestiality, he added.

“Even before the bestiality provision was brought forward, there were many members on the House side who said they would fight this, and bring down the bill, if needed,” McClusky said.

The conference report also drops language from the House version of the bill sponsored by Reps. Todd Akin (R-Mo) and Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) designed to underscore that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) applies to military bases. In its place, however, it includes language sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) to guarantee that military chaplains would not be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

“I think now it is highly likely the bill will be passed,” McClusky said. “The chaplain provision in there is a great start but more needs to be done to protect the rights of chaplains and personnel following the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But overall I think it’s a bill that most on both sides are satisfied with and I don’t see anything holding it up.”

All in all, the Congress narrowly averted making a bad law, he said.

“We rail against judges who make bad decisions – and rightfully so – but what people seem to forget is that a lot of judges’ decisions are made because politicians make bad law. In this case it was bad law.”