House Approves National Defense Authorization Act Embedded With Discriminatory Anti-LGBT Provision

In a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, a coalition of major tech companies are calling for removal of a discriminatory anti-LGBT provision embedded in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The Human Rights Campaign reports that, “Today, HRC called out the U.S. House of Representatives for approving a new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) containing an anti-LGBT provision that would allow sweeping taxpayer-funded discrimination.

‘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 defense 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 jeopardizes 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.

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.”