NDAA clears House with ‘religious freedom’ amendment
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Monday, May 23, 2016

NDAA clears House with ‘religious freedom’ amendment

By Pamela Wolf, J.D. On May 18, he House passed, by a 277-147 vote, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 along with its Section 1094, which according to Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.), “would have the effect of overturning President Obama’s historic executive order protecting LGBT workers in federal contracts, therefore enabling discrimination with taxpayer funds.” The controversial amendment (232r2) offered by Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) states: “Any branch or agency of the Federal Government shall, with respect to any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution, or religious society that is a recipient of or offeror for a Federal Government contract, subcontract, grant, purchase order, or cooperative agreement, provide protections and exemptions consistent with sections 702(a) and 703(e)(2) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e-1(a) and 42 11 U.S.C. 2000e-2(e)(2)) and section 103(d) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 USC 12113(d)).” Opponents quickly raised a red flag, explaining that the amendment would negate President Obama’s July 2014 executive order that extends protections to LGBT workers on government contracts. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 do not expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, a government contractor that is a recipient of or offeror for a government contract, grant, purchase order, or cooperative agreement would be free under the amendment to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There is a question, however, as to whether the amendment would actually accomplish its goal. Both the EEOC and the Justice Department have declared that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes antidiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It was Republican Congressman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) who responded with a play to remove the controversial amendment, but that effort failed. “It is simply stunning that House Republicans have decided to make targeting LGBT Americans a priority in the Defense Authorization bill,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The Defense Authorization bill should be about making our country safe, and honoring the oath we take to protect and defend the American people,” Pelosi continued. “It should not be a place where the most extreme elements of the Republican Conference are allowed to codify hatred and intolerance against Americans based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. “I am deeply disappointed that the Rules Committee did not allow a vote on the bipartisan Dent amendment. Speaker Ryan’s pledges of regular order, transparency and openness continue to ring more hollow each and every day. Democrats will continue to insist that this provision be removed from the Defense Authorization bill.”

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