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Dornan Softens Legislation on HIV in Military

Congress: He amends own bill, repealed last week, to exempt those with 15 years of service 'to preserve training.'

May 02, 1996|MEREDITH COHN | STATES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON — Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) was successful Wednesday in convincing the House defense panel to approve legislation that would allow military personnel with 15 years of service to avoid discharge even though they test positive for HIV.

Dornan, chairman of the military personnel subcommittee, amended his own bill that would require retirement of all personnel with the virus that causes AIDS. His previous bill was repealed last week in an agreement between Congress and President Clinton over the 1996 budget.

Dornan said the latest move was necessary "to preserve the training" in the military. Also, the Congressional Budget Office, which estimates legislation's price tags, calculated that Dornan's original measure would be too costly.

The number of military personnel who have contracted HIV and have served 15 years was not provided Wednesday.

Democrats opposed the measure, with Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills) calling it "arbitrary." Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) said Dornan is "playing to a prejudice."

In another move taken by the National Security Committee, which was hammering out details of the 1997 Defense Authorization bill, the sale or rental of pornographic magazines and videos would be forbidden on military bases under a proposal by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.).

Dornan offered some changes when Democrats contended that the proposal was unclear and could end up banning cable television and posing a threat to 1st Amendment rights of free speech.

Dornan said the measure would not ban personnel from subscribing to cable or bringing material to their quarters from outside sources.

"This just says that the military shouldn't be a facilitator," he said.

Dornan, in another matter, convinced lawmakers to agree on a study to determine if women should serve in combat roles.

Two female members of the panel, Harman and Tillie Fowler (R-Fla.), successfully pressed Dornan to alter the legislation to allow women already in combat-related service or training to continue during the study.

Efforts to repeal the ban on abortions in overseas military hospitals were beaten back by Dornan and others.

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