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House LGBT Caucus Denounces Anti-LGBT Provision in NDAA

Sep 26, 2016
Press Release

1433 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515

Date: May 17, 2016         Contact:  Roddy Flynn, (202) 226-7572

House LGBT Caucus Denounces Anti-LGBT Provision in NDAA

Washington, DC – The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus today denounced the House Rules Committee’s refusal to allow debate on stripping an anti-LGBT provision from the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.  The provision, called the Russell Amendment, was placed in NDAA in the middle of the night during markup with no time to properly consider its scope or impact. 

The Russell Amendment is a broad, ill-defined provision which allows any “religious corporation” (a wholly undefined term) to discriminate against LGBT employees or applicants.  It dramatically undermines President Obama’s landmark Executive Order prohibiting LGBT employment discrimination by federal contractors, a signature victory of the LGBT equality movement.  A bipartisan group of lawmakers attempted to remove the Russell Amendment from the defense bill, only to be stopped by the House Rules Committee, who ruled the amendment not in order effectively disallowing floor debate on the Russell Amendment’s impact.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that some lawmakers have chosen to endorse LGBT discrimination in a national security bill,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41).  “The anti-LGBT Russell Provision will effectively overrule the President’s landmark Executive Order prohibiting LGBT discrimination in federal contracting, which provided workplace protections for 28 million people. It was passed in the middle of the night with no chance for informed discussion or debate. An amendment to remove this harmful language was blocked by opponents of equality who are choosing to subsidize discrimination with taxpayer funds.

“NDAA is about keeping our country safe and strong. What these lawmakers fail to understand is that the source of America’s strength is both our military power and the respect we offer to every American, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. It is ironic and sad that a defense bill would be used to undermine the principles we are fighting to protect. The fact that this comes a day after the confirmation of Eric Fanning to Secretary of the Army, the first openly gay leader of a branch of our military, is a reminder that hate and bigotry towards the LGBT community are not easily defeated.

“I want to thank Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) for their leadership in trying to stop the Russell Amendment.  We fought a bipartisan fight to ensure no federal contractor can fire someone just because of who they are or who they love.  And we will continue to fight until ALL Americans have the rights they deserve.”

The Dent-Smith amendment was cosponsored by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Scott Peters (D-CA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Rick Larsen (D-WA).

Please contact Roddy Flynn at 202-257-8416 or with press inquiries.

The mission of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. The bi-partisan LGBT Equality Caucus is strongly committed to achieving the full enjoyment of human rights for LGBT people in the U.S. and around the world. By serving as a resource for Members of Congress, their staff, and the public on LGBT issues, the Caucus works toward the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and wellbeing for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.