September 28, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Anti-LGBT language stripped from defense bill, for now

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

BY CHRIS JOHNSON  |  A provision that would have undermined President Obama’s executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT workplace discrimination won’t be included in the final package of major defense spending legislation, according to senior armed services committee aides.

During a background briefing with reporters on Tuesday, an aide said the final version of the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill hammered out by House and Senate lawmakers in conference committee lacks the language Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) inserted in the House version of the bill.

“The Russell amendment was in response to the executive orders,” the aide said. “The NDAA was always an imperfect remedy for that problem. Subsequent to the election, new paths have opened up to address those issues. It’s still a very important issue for members and they intend to pursue those other paths.”

The aide affirmed that neither the Russell amendment nor anything like it would be included in the $619 billion defense package, which is expected to make it to the House floor for a vote on Friday.

Prior to Election Day, Democrats led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sounded the alarm over the possibility the language would be included in the conference report for the defense authorization bill. LGBT advocates looked to Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was facing re-election in 2016, to keep the language out of the final package based on his opposition to a state “religious freedom” measure proposed in Arizona. Negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers were put off until the lame duck session of Congress amid the controversy.

Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) inserted the provision as an amendment to the House version of the defense authorization bill in April during the House Armed Services Committee’s consideration of the measure. The Senate version of the defense legislation lacked any comparable language.

The Russell amendment would have permitted “any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution or religious society” contracting with the U.S. government to engage in anti-LGBT discrimination on the basis of religious freedom. The lack of definition for “religious corporation” in the provision could have allowed courts to construe the term broadly to mean any federal contractor — not just religious organizations — in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

Had the provision been signed into law as part of the defense authorization bill, the language would have undermined Obama’s 2014 executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace bias among federal contractors.

The White House identified the language as one reason for a veto threat over the House version of the defense authorization bill. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest slammed the inclusion of the provision in must-pass defense legislation as “ridiculous.”

The administration also objected to other provisions in the version of the bill proposed by the House, such as language inhibiting the president from removing detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It remains to be seen what position the White House will now take on the final version of the legislation.

LGBT advocates who objected to the language may not be out of the woods yet. With Donald Trump in the White House, lawmakers may try yet again with the provision and face no veto threat, or Trump on his own could rescind the executive order or insert a religious exemption in the measure.

Related Posts

2020 Tony Awards Will Be Virtual

September 27, 2020

September 27, 2020

Producers of the Tony Awards have announced that the 74th annual ceremony to honor the best on Broadway will be...

WeHo Bar Gold Coast Closing Permanently

September 27, 2020

September 27, 2020

Gold Coast, one of the oldest gay bars in West Hollywood, is closing permanently after 39 years.  The Gold Coast...

National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network

September 20, 2020

September 20, 2020

The National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network (the Network) launched a new campaign that urges presidential candidates to address issues of...

Helen Albert Farmers’ Market To Reopen

September 20, 2020

September 20, 2020

The City of West Hollywood will reopen the Helen Albert Certified Farmers’ Market at Plummer Park from 9 a.m. to...

Supreme Court Justice & LGBTQ Ally Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dead At 87

September 18, 2020

September 18, 2020

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away on Sept. 18th at the age of 87, the court has...

Ross Victory Standing For Bisexuality

September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

Los Angeles singer-songwriter and author Ross Victory gives the reader a detailed vision of his life as a bisexual minority...

WeHo Cooling Center At Plummer Park

September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

With temperatures expected to rise to more than 90 degrees over the next week, the City of West Hollywood will...

Golden Girls Puppet Parody

September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

Jonathan Rockefeller, acclaimed American/Australian producer, director, and writer, has announced that 16 new, original episodes of That Golden Girl Show!...

Los Angeles CEO Jeffrey Previte Caught Beating Dog

September 12, 2020

September 12, 2020

Jeffrey Previte, the CEO of EBI Consulting an environmental consulting firm in Los Angeles, was captured on camera at the...

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar 25th Anniversary

September 12, 2020

September 12, 2020

The cult classic “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar” hugely popular in the LGBTQ+ community celebrates its 25th...

Trans Women Will No Longer Be Incarcerated In Men’s Prisons In California

September 12, 2020

September 12, 2020

After passing the state legislature with a vote of  29 in favor and 10 against, Senate Bill 132 is headed...

Love In Action Telethon

September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020

Love In Action, a telethon to support the LGBTQ+ community during the COVID pandemic will be airing live on Sept.12th...

Rage Nightclub Permanently Closing

September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020

After 37 years Rage nightclub located at the northwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente in West Hollywood...

OUTFEST Announces “Taiwan Program”

September 6, 2020

September 6, 2020

The 2020 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan (R.O.C) and Taiwan Academy...

LGBTQ Center Long Beach Fires Executive Director Porter Gilberg

September 6, 2020

September 6, 2020

The Board of Directors of the LGBTQ Center Long Beach announced that it will not renew the employment contract of...