The bill, which the Senate passed 93-7 last week, would repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that states any person who engages in "unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy." Those found guilty of sodomy would be subject to court martial.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Thursday that the repeal was simply a legal change because it's no longer constitutional. A 2003 Supreme Court decision struck down a Texas ban on sodomy as an unconstitutional intrusion on privacy.
The committee said the changes in law were recommended by the Joint Services Committee on Military Justice and the secretary of defense.
Senate negotiators are working to reconcile their version of the bill with the House-passed measure and produce final legislation that sets policy for the Pentagon. House Republicans oppose the repeal and want to leave the provision intact.
A congressional aide close to the negotiations said late Thursday that it was unlikely the repeal would stand. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.
Conservative groups angered by the end this year to the ban on gays serving openly in the military were outraged by the proposed repeal of the sodomy provision.
"Now, in its rush to accommodate the left, Congress may have inadvertently opened the door to even more perversion," Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said in a statement. "As part of the defense authorization bill, liberals are pushing to make sodomy a legal activity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In its haste to make gay sex an official part of military life, the left could be unintentionally repealing the ban on bestiality, too."
In an interview, Perkins said he has been talking to House lawmakers involved in the defense negotiations as they push to leave the provision intact, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif.
"This blowup over bestiality shows the sloppy nature of this repeal," Perkins said.
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