“Taxpayer funded discrimination is always wrong and today the House followed in the footsteps of North Carolina, Mississippi, Indiana and other states that are targeting LGBT Americans,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “Instead of listening to the super-majority of the American people who support legal protections for LGBT people, the House majority is catering to right wing extremists who would turn back the clock on equality. We are very disappointed that House Republican Leadership allowed this bill to move forward with a discriminatory and harmful anti-LGBT provision, and we are committed to working with our allies in the Senate and House to keep this harmful language from the final version of the defence bill.”
The anti-LGBT provision, offered as an amendment by Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) in the House Armed Services Committee, would allow, under the guise of religious liberty, sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in all federal agencies, not just the Department of Defense. The provision jeopardises President Obama’s executive order prohibiting LGBT discrimination in federal contracting, and could have far-reaching consequences, potentially even undermining existing federal nondiscrimination provisions protecting workers against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.
Representatives Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Adam Smith (D-WA) filed an amendment to strip the Russell Amendment, but the House Rules Committee — an arm of House Republican Leadership — rejected the bipartisan amendment, refusing to allow debate or a vote on the House floor. The amendment to strip the discriminatory Russell Amendment was also cosponsored by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Scott Peters (D-CA).
A last-ditch effort by House Democrats to strip the amendment failed along nearly party lines on a procedural vote. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) spoke on the floor against the Russell Amendment. “The anti-LGBT provision in NDAA is not about supporting our troops, defeating ISIS, or protecting religious liberty – it’s about bigotry, plain and simple,” said Rep. Maloney. “We had an opportunity to strike this anti-LGBT language and in doing so, strike a blow for equality, but unfortunately many of our colleagues chose to strip LGBT Americans of basic workplace protections, saying it is once again legal for our LGBT brothers and sisters to be fired because of who they are, and who they love – this is wrong. I am incredibly disappointed in many of my colleagues refusal to take a stand against discrimination and strike the hate.”
The Senate is expected to soon consider its version of the NDAA on the Senate floor. Following Senate passage, the two chambers will negotiate a final version of the bill, which must then be approved by both chambers and signed by the President. The White House has already issued Statement of Administrative Policy indicating its strong opposition to the Russell Amendment.