#RejectRussell: The Insidious Provision Hiding in Our Annual Defense Bill

Congress is slated to weigh an annual defense bill loaded with a horrifying anti-LGBTQ provision: The Russell Amendment.

Congress will weigh an annual defense bill that, this year, includes a sickeningly dangerous attachment: The Russell Amendment. If you haven’t heard of it yet, The Russell Amendment is a progress-slashing anti-LGBTQ provision that would allow religious organizations with federal contracts or grants to discriminate against their employees at will.

“[The Russell Amendment] would not only undermine President Obama’s executive order banning LGBTQ discrimination by federal contractors, but also allow sweeping taxpayer funded discrimination across the federal government,” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said in a statement, calling the provision “one of the most significant threats to LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, and others we have seen in Congress in years.”

Yesterday, HRC joined a coalition on Capitol Hill to deliver over 340,000 signatures from across the country to Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI) and Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA) urging Congress to keep this provision out of the final version of the defense bill. The petitions were handed to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, who will ultimately determine whether the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will contain the Russell Amendment.

Lawmakers covertly added The Russell Amendment to the annual defense bill in the middle of the night, according to sources, with little debate or discussion and virtually no warning.

Basically, The Russell Amendment would allow so-called “religious organizations” with federal ties to bypass long-standing civil rights protections by discriminating against employees who differ from their employers in their religious beliefs or practices. It would, for all intents and purposes, undo years of progress gained for marginalized communities—including President Obama’s executive order that banned LGBTQ discrimination by federal contractors. Just as alarmingly, it would also allow discrimination on the basis of religion: A Muslim woman could be punished by her employer for wearing a burka; a woman who uses birth control could even be castigated by her “religious” employers if they learned of her choice.

Help the HRC and the coalition against this revolting provision fight its inclusion in our defense bill. Add your voice HERE by calling on your members of Congress to refuse to accept the discriminatory Russell Amendment.

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