As Obama backs gay marriage, House GOP tries to limit gay-friendly policies


President Obama is seen on television monitors at the White House on Wednesday. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

House Republicans voted Wednesday night to bar the Justice Department from using any federal funds to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act. They added the prohibitions to an appropriations measure. The Obama administration last year said it would no longer defend the federal law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriage because it considers the legislation unconstitutional.

Also Wednesday night, the House Armed Services Committee voted to bar gay and lesbian service members from getting married or holding “marriage-like” ceremonies at military facilities.

Both measures, or similar bills, have been introduced or successfully added to appropriations and authorization measures in recent years, but the proposals are often dropped as part of negotiations over a final version of the bill with Senate Democrats

Regardless, the symbolism of the GOP attempting to roll back gay rights on the same day that the president endorsed same-sex marriage wasn’t lost on some.

“On an historic day and in the dark of night, House Republicans have voted to tie the hands of the Obama Administration with respect to their efforts to end discrimination against America’s families,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said in response to the Justice Department measure.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), passed late Wednesday, 245 to 171. Huelskamp said he introduced the amendment because “President Obama and the entire Executive Branch are supposed to enforce the laws, not write or erase them. It is not President Obama’s prerogative to decide which laws matter and which do not, nor his right to challenge constitutional amendments duly passed by the various States.”

Over at the armed services panel, Reps. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.) and Todd Akin (R-Mo.) successfully amended the defense measure Wednesday night to include restrictions on gay marriage.

Akin said that since last fall’s repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy barring gays and lesbians from serving openly in uniform, “we have heard stories of military chaplains facing censorship for their opposition to the liberal agenda. Chaplains and service members should not face recrimination or persecution in the military for standing strong on their religious beliefs in opposition to homosexuality.”

But Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the panel’s ranking Democrat, said he opposed the measure, because despite the repeal of DADT, “members of this committee are looking to turn back the clock and find new ways to discriminate against gay and lesbian service members.”

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which pushed for the repeal of DADT, noted late Wednesday that the Pentagon “has already made it clear - and appropriately so - that decisions about the use of facilities should be made on a sexual orientation neutral basis.”

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Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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