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A California congressman strongly opposed to allowing gays to serve openly in the military is drafting legislation to protect the rights of straight service members who object to the presence of gays.
The draft bill prepared by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who served as a Marine Corps officer before being elected to Congress, does not prevent repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy by the end of September, but it would require the services to "ensure that a member of the Armed Forces under their jurisdiction is not pressured to approve of another person's sexual conduct if that sexual conduct is contrary to the personal principles of the member."
Essentially, this would mean that military people have to accept the presence of gays in the military but they would not have to like it, said an aide familiar with the legislation.
Hunter has tried several times to block or undermine repeal of the ban on open service by gays but has been blocked at every step by the Senate's refusal to take up any legislation modifying the repeal law.
There also is no guarantee that his new proposal would become law. Hunter might be able to get House leaders to schedule a vote on the legislation before Sept. 20, the day when the ban is scheduled to officially be lifted, but again, the Senate would be unlikely to take up the measure.
Hunter could introduce the bill as early as Sept. 7, when the House resumes work after the August recess.
House aides said Hunter continues to hear complaints from service members about so-called sensitivity training classes aimed at preparing the military for open acceptance of gays.
"We've heard the training is really pushing the line for people who believe homosexuality is wrong on religious and personal grounds," said an aide, who asked not to be identified. "It is a legitimate concern, under the circumstances, with the services working on disciplinary policies for people who don't agree with this decision."
Hunter's legislation would not allow service members to disobey direct orders involving openly gay service members, but it would allow them to express their personal views.
"The military always falls in line, but that doesn't mean that the men and women who serve in its ranks should suddenly be forced to personally accept something that is contrary to their own principles," the aide said.