Repeal of sodomy, bestiality ban sparks fight on Defense bill

Jeremy Herb – The Hill December 12, 2011

As the final Defense authorization bill gets hammered out in conference committee, one surprising issue is riling both social conservatives and animal rights activists: the repeal of a ban on sodomy and bestiality.

The Senate bill, which was passed last week, removed an article from the Uniform Code of Military Justice stating “unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy.”

But the article is still included in the House bill, and House Republicans want it to remain in the final bill.

News of the bestiality repeal has sparked conservative groups like the Family Research Council to warn of a “campaign to radicalize the country from the Pentagon out,” even if the intent to repeal bestiality wasn’t there. The group likened the repeal to last year’s end of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” rule on gays serving openly in the military.

“In its rush to accommodate the Left, Congress may have inadvertently opened the door to even more perversion,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement. “In its haste to make gay sex an official part of military life, the Left could be unintentionally repealing the ban on bestiality too.”

The Pentagon, however, says that even if the article in the military code was repealed, having sex with animals would still be covered under different statutes.

“It is difficult to envision a situation where a service member engages in sexual conduct with an animal that would not be conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline or service-discrediting,” said Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.

House and Senate negotiators are in the midst of hammering out a host of contentious issues on the Defense bill, including the detention of terror suspects, sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and chaplains performing same-sex marriages. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation over provisions mandating military custody of terror suspects.

The issue of bestiality, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to have taken up too much of the White House’s time. Lester Kinsolving, who writes for conservative website WorldNetDaily, asked about the issue at a White House briefing Monday, prompting press secretary Jay Carney to say: “Let’s get to something more serious.”

That response, however, drew a rebuke from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“We were upset to note that you flippantly addressed the recently approved repeal of the military ban on bestiality,” the group wrote in a letter to Carney. “With respect, this is no laughing matter. Our office has been flooded with calls from Americans who are upset that this ban has been repealed — and for good reason.”

As for the final bill, one source close to the conference committee negotiations said the repeal is unlikely to survive, and the provision would remain.

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