The Senate failed to muster enough votes Tuesday to pass an annual military spending bill weighed down by an immigration provision and the repeal of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) policy.
The bill was filibustered by Republicans and earned 56 votes, four short of the 60 Democrats needed to pass the bill. Earlier this month, a federal judge in California ruled that the policy was unconstitutional. The House passed its own repeal in May.
Leaders of all four military branches have asked lawmakers not to act until they finish conducting a survey of military personnel in December.
"I'm rejoicing" that the bill did not pass, said Paul Vicalvi, chaplains commission executive director for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). "It will spare a lot of grief."
While most debate has been over what happens in soldiers' close living conditions, that isn't the chaplains' biggest concern, according to Jan McCormack, director of chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at Denver Seminary.
"What I do worry about is what it might mean if a chaplain who had a viewpoint about homosexuality refused to counsel or work with somebody," she said.
If gay and lesbian soldiers receive protective status, McCormack said, how does that affect the expectations of the military's 3,000 active-duty chaplains? "What if a commander decides that I'm supposed to counsel by myself a lesbian female and I don't think I should? I just don't hear Congress thinking about that end of it."
But some denominations are. The Southern Baptist Convention, which has the most chaplains of any denomination at nearly 450, passed a resolution in June against the repeal of DADT, claiming that a large percentage of currently serving military personnel said they would not reenlist ...