Ten years ago Representative Steve King (R-IA) said that he would use his congressional seat to "move the political center of gravity in Congress to the right." And he has spent his time in Washington trying to do just that in a manner that we, at One Iowa, find both offensive and out of touch.
It is not often that we respond to Rep. King. At One Iowa -- the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization -- we have more important things to do as we work for fairness, equality and basic Iowa values. But this merits a response.
Last year, while we celebrated the end of the discriminatory policy known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Rep. King chose to ignore research, data, and first-hand accounts from countless military service members and veterans, and defended the policy saying "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' has turned out to be an effective policy that has helped to preserve military readiness, and it should not be repealed." King even proposed a version of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the workplace for LGBT employees who felt targeted or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead of working to end this discrimination, he told them to effectively stay in the closet. Instead of fighting for Iowa workers, he continued his legacy of discrimination.
Now he's at it again. Last week, he introduced an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that would outlaw marriage between gay and lesbian couples on military bases. His justification? The Defense of Marriage Act, otherwise known as DOMA, which limits federal recognition of marriage and does not recognize the marriages of legally married gay and lesbian couples. The amendment is called the DOMA Limitation Amendment.
Last year, after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Defense Department issued a memo to military chaplains allowing marriage ceremonies to occur as long as they were not "prohibited by applicable state and local law." The memo also protected chaplains who did not wish to participate in any ceremony if it violated "his or her religion or personal beliefs." The repeal respected state and local law as well as the beliefs of denominations and individuals.
In his speech last week on the House floor, Rep. King said that the directive from the Department of Defense "implied encouragement to conduct same-sex marriages on our military bases conducted by our chaplains presumably who are all under the payroll of the U.S. government." According to Rep. King, this directive somehow violates DOMA by virtue of an "implied encouragement," and so he sees a pressing need to tack on this redundant amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill.
Put simply, this amendment is cruel. It sends a clear message to gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members that their relationships are not welcome in spite of their dedication and service to our country. I can't think of a more shameful message to send to military men and women in Iowa and across the nation.
It is important to point out that there are military chaplains of many denominations including Quakers, Episcopalians, Reform, Conservative and Reconstruction Judaism, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist and others, who are committed to blessing all unions between loving and committed couples. In addition, same-gender marriage is legal and recognized in the state of Iowa as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia. We are hopeful that Maryland, Maine, and Washington will join us in the very near future.
It is clear that the latest move by Rep. King is simply his personal brand of radical political posturing. Yet, on July 19, the House passed that amendment 247-166, with 17 Democrats voting in favor and five Republicans opposed. Next it heads to the Senate.
It is important that Congress understands that we support and celebrate equality in the armed services. We also need to call for an end to DOMA, because as long as DOMA exists, anti-equality crusaders like Rep. King will continue to use it to justify and codify inequality. America deserves better.
You can do something today! Call your senators and let them know what you think of Rep. King's discriminatory amendment. For more information, visit: http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm
Follow Donna Red Wing on Twitter: www.twitter.com/OneIowa