Family Research Council

July 19, 2013 - Friday

Victory Layne for Guardsman in Marriage Fight

How far is the military willing to go to silence men and women of faith? According to Air National Guardsman Layne Wilson, they'd rather deny his sick wife medical care than tolerate his opinion on same-sex "marriage." In a shocking twist to the story we highlighted last week,Wilson's superiors not only rescinded his six-year contract with the Guard for his opinion on marriage, but broke off the health coverage that his wife -- who is suffering from stage four breast cancer -- depended on.

As part of his punishment for voicing his beliefs, Layne's superiors made it clear that the only way his family could regain their health benefits was by agreeing to a one-year extension -- instead of the six-year contract they had already signed. Essentially, the military was telling Layne that it was prepared to risk his wife's life on the altar of political correctness.

"That's so illegal," said Layne's attorney, John Wells. "You can't take an executed contract [and do that]. The oath was administered. Everybody had signed on it. You can't take it and just tear it up. And that's exactly what they did." He continued, "Tobias's earlier actions in pulling the six-year contract led to a break in service and a loss of benefits... It would seem to me that canceling the medical benefits for a sick cancer victim to coerce an underling to sign an illegal contract constitutes cruelty and maltreatment under the Utah Code of Military Justice. This type of action is unconscionable..."

The Air National Guard put the health of a military family on the line -- all because a 27-year veteran spoke up in defense of the law. In a letter to West Point, Layne objected to the lesbian wedding ceremony held in the cadet chapel, which, at the time, was in direct defiance of the Defense of Marriage Act. "You are hereby reprimanded," Lt. Col. Kevin Tobias informedWilson. "As a noncommissioned officer, you are expected to maintain a standard of professional and personal behavior that is above reproach. You have failed!" Ironically, the person who actually failed was the officer who allowed the ceremony in the first place. Let's not forget: Congress repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) -- not federal marriage law. And whileWilson's feelings on DOMA might have rankled the Guard, the fact is, the military was using DADT (which had nothing to do with marriage) to force someone out of the service.

"I told him that maybe this is a good time for him to move on," Tobias admitted, "because we've been ordered to not have an opinion about gays in the military." But having an opinion about gays in the military is different than having an opinion on marriage. That's an important distinction, Wells points out. "They basically said if you can't get in sync with the military policy about homosexuals serving openly -- which he did not complain of by the way, it was just homosexual marriage -- then you better get out."

Are we to assume, then, that there's no longer a place in the military for people who agree with the majority of Americans -- and 37 states -- on marriage? That's a dangerous message to send, especially in a fighting force dominated by religious and political conservatives, who volunteer largely from natural marriages states. Is the President honestly willing to hollow out our military in the name of extreme liberalism? Unfortunately, we get closer to finding out every day.

In the meantime, it seems the National Guard has had second thoughts about its heartless treatment of Mrs. Wilson. (If denying care to a breast cancer patient isn't a "war on women," I don't know what is!) When Layne threatened to sue, the branch agreed to reinstate his original six-year enlistment contract -- complete with health insurance. In the meantime, it's up to Congress to protect families like the Wilsons. Only by passing Rep. John Fleming's (R-La.) military conscience amendment will our brave men and women be free to speak about their faith without fear of punishment. Please contact your senators and ask them to adopt the House language in the Defense bill.

And while all of us wish Layne's case were an isolated one, it isn't. Click over to FRC's new publication, "Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military" to read about other service members who've been harassed, fired, demoted, or silenced for their faith.

Marriage: It's in the BLAG for House Leaders

The liberal media are breathless with excitement at the news that the Republican-led House has allegedly "caved" on the issue of redefining marriage. As usual, their zeal for the narrative that homosexual "marriage" is "inevitable" has gotten well ahead of the facts. The House, represented by its Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), yesterday filed a motion in federal court which did nothing more than acknowledge the Supreme Court's decision last month in United States v. Windsor. In that case, the Court struck down just one section of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) -- the one defining marriage for all purposes under federal law as the union of one man and one woman. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the slimmest of majorities (5-4), weakly argued that it's unconstitutional to have a blanket denial of federal recognition to "persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by a State."

Some federal laws other than DOMA, however (like those dealing with veterans' benefits), also contain explicit definitions of a "spouse" as someone of the opposite sex, so a separate lawsuit had been filed challenging them. The Court's ruling in Windsor made it extremely unlikely that laws virtually identical to DOMA's Section 3 would be upheld, so the House simply notified the Court it was withdrawing as "intervenor-defendant" from the case of McLaughlin v. Panetta. There's also the possibility that the House will weigh in on three related cases that are pending. More importantly, it did not abandon Section 2 of DOMA, which says that states are not required to recognize same-sex "marriages" from other states. We would expect to see a continued vigorous defense of that provision by House leaders.

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** What does postponing the employer mandate say about the President and his signature health care law? Find out in Ken Blackwell's latest World magazine piece, "The ObamaCare 'Jam' Rule."

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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