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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 29, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 18
Congressional committee approves attack on LGBT civil rights protections
Section One
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Congressional committee approves attack on LGBT civil rights protections

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The powerful House Armed Services Committee has approved a measure to strip away federal civil rights protections from the LGBT community.

The proposal, which passed on a party-line vote of 33-29, would invalidate President Obama's 2014 executive order barring workplace discrimination against LGBT employees by companies that do business with the federal government.

The measure's author, Republican Rep. Steve Russell of Oklahoma, attached it to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, an omnibus bill that would fund the U.S. military.

Attaching amendments to must-pass legislation like defense spending bills is a common tactic in Congress. It enables members of Congress to put through measures that might not pass as stand-alone bills.

While the amendment is now attached to the defense authorization bill, it can still be separated at some time during future debate. If the defense authorization bill passes with the amendment still in place, President Obama would be compelled to veto the whole defense spending package in order to rescue his executive order.

Republicans who control Congress have blocked consideration of legislation to affirm LGBT civil rights by statute, so the Obama administration has used administrative rules and executive orders to offer civil rights protections to LGBT Americans.

In addition to the 2014 executive order, the administration has also issued new interpretations of the federal Title VII and Title IX rules that say prohibitions against discrimination on account of sex also apply to sexual orientation and gender identity.

HRC was quick to condemn the Armed Services Committee action in an April 28 statement on its website.

'The Russell amendment was approved by a vote of 33-29 early this morning,' HRC said. 'It would allow sweeping, taxpayer-funded discrimination in an attempt to promote anti-LGBT religious-based discrimination in the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.

'With far-reaching intended and unintended consequences, the vague amendment could even undermine existing nondiscrimination provisions that protect workers, and perhaps even beneficiaries, against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.'

HRC's Government Affairs Director David Stacy added that 'Rep. Russell's harmful amendment would strip away existing protections for LGBT workers by undermining President Obama's executive order on LGBT nondiscrimination protections in federal contracting.

'Evidently some House Republicans want to emulate their state legislative colleagues in undermining legal protections for LGBT Americans. The House Republican leadership must get this language out of the bill.'

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