President Obama is Prepared to Veto Congress’ NDAA If Anti-LGBT Russell Amendment Advances, Officials Say

By Adam Polaski • October 26, 2016 • 4:28 pm

Today Roll Call reported that if the United States Congress sends him the National Defense Authorization Act containing the anti-LGBT “Russell Amendment,” he is prepared to veto the bill in order to protect LGBT federal contractors.


The Russell Amendment essentially voids President Obama’s 2014 nondiscrimination executive order protecting 16.5 million Americans are protected by the executive order – but if the Russell Amendment becomes law, all of these people could be left vulnerable to employment discrimination. Federal contractors would be free to cite their religious beliefs as an excuse for firing or refusing to hire LGBT people simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Roll Call reports:

President Barack Obama is prepared to veto the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill if it includes a provision that the White House believes would allow some forms of discrimination in federal contracting. … So said senior administration officials at a White House meeting Monday of groups that oppose the provision, according to participants in the conclave who requested anonymity to talk about it. … The White House has not publicly and explicitly vowed to veto the $600 billion-plus defense bill over the House-passed provision by Oklahoma Republican Steve Russell. But the administration officials told their allies Monday that they have delivered just that message privately to members in unequivocal terms. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has personally reached out to key lawmakers on the issue, the administration officials said at Monday’s meeting.

In May 2016, the Russell Amendment advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives. It has not passed in the Senate version of the bill. When Congress returns to session in November, the two chambers must reconcile the NDAA – and when they do, it is vital that they remove the anti-LGBT language from the Russell Amendment. Matt McTighe, Executive Director of Freedom for All Americans, said this summer:

“The Russell amendment is a sloppily written provision that is intended to roll back existing protections for LGBT people by undermining President Obama’s executive order. Americans overwhelmingly support protecting LGBT people from discrimination. Many will rightfully wonder why lawmakers in Congress are seeking not only to take us backwards, but to do so with an amendment attached to a bill that funds our military. This amendment does nothing to strengthen existing protections for religious freedom – its singular focus is to harm LGBT people.”

Read more about anti-LGBT moves in Congress here.


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