Akin’s ‘Conscience Clause’ May Be His Final Controversy

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – After his comments on “legitimate rape” and abortion, and his defeat in the U.S. Senate race, Missouri Congressman Todd Akin may be going out with one last controversy.

Rep. Akin has an amendment attached to the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, a religious “conscience clause,” which would undermine the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The House passed the bill, with Akin’s clause in it, in May while the Senate passed a version of the bill without the Akin clause this month.

The clause would allow service members to avoid punishment on the basis of their religious beliefs “concerning the appropriate and inappropriate expression of human sexuality.” But some say it’s too broad, and would allow service members to refuse to serve alongside or share living quarters with gays and lesbians, in effect giving special rights to those who want to discriminate based on sexual orientation. While Akin argues that he is preventing discrimination, critics argue that his clause would codify it.

“It carves out a set of special rights for those who would want to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation,” Allyson Robinson, an Army veteran and executive director of the LGBT rights group Outserve-Service Members Legal Defense Network, told Mother Jones. “What this language does is make it less clear to that unit commander on the ground how they should implement Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal.”

The House and Senate are negotiating different versions of the defense authorization bill and the two main Republican negotiators, including Arizona Senator John McCain, want Akin’s conscience clause to remain in the bill.

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