Take Action: Urge Congress to Remove Anti-LGBT Russell Amendment from NDAABy Adam Polaski • May 19, 2016 • 1:55 pm
Today, May 19, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives blocked an effort to eliminate the Russell Amendment, the anti-LGBT provision passed on Wednesday as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that essentially voids President Obama’s 2014 nondiscrimination executive order. 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.
In fact, if the Russell Amendment becomes law federal contractors will be able 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.
Religious freedom is one of the most important values in our country – and that’s why it’s already protected by the United States Constitutions. Religious schools and churches already can’t be forced to hire religious instructors or ministers who don’t follow the tenants of their religion – and no one is trying to change that. But the Russell Amendment goes much, much further – allowing, for example, religious universities receiving federal funds to fire any employee – from custodians to researchers – simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) offered a separate amendment to a military construction funding bill on Thursday that would require compliance with the executive order, but the measure failed by a 212-213 vote. This was the second time the House has scuttled an effort to kill Russell’s anti-LGBT amendment. On Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee rejected a bipartisan amendment offered by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) that would have voided the Russell measure.
Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said today:
“The spectacle that just played out on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives is shameful,” said Matt McTighe, Freedom for All Americans executive director. “Some House lawmakers are clearly obsessed with passing discriminatory measures that harm LGBT Americans, no matter what the cost. LGBT people serve our country and our communities with the same commitment as everyone else, and it’s outrageous that some House members are working to actually roll-back existing nondiscrimination protections. Today’s anti-LGBT antics on the House floor are not what Americans expect to see, or want to see, from their elected officials in 2016.”