Tell Congress: Remove the anti-LGBTQ Russell amendment from the National Defense Authorization Act.
Republicans are trying to use the annual defense spending bill to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
Earlier this year Rep. Steve Russell – an extreme right-wing Republican from Oklahoma – slipped in an anti-LGBTQ amendment in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Republicans rammed his amendment through the House floor during a middle-of-the-night session with almost no debate.
Under the guise of protecting religious freedom, the amendment would give religiously affiliated organizations license to discriminate against women, the LGBTQ community and religious minorities using taxpayer dollars.1
Now, the decision about whether this hateful and discriminatory amendment will stay in the NDAA is in the hands of just four individuals: Arizona Sen. John McCain, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, Texas Rep. Mac Thornberry and Washington Rep. Adam Smith. They are the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, and they are in charge of proposing the final version of the bill. That is why we are joining with our friends at the ACLU to put the pressure on them now to make sure this anti-LGBTQ amendment doesn’t get a vote during the upcoming lame-duck session in Congress.
Tell Sens. McCain and Reed and Reps. Thornberry and Smith: Do not use tax dollars to fund discrimination. Remove the Russell Amendment from the final version of the NDAA.
The Russell Amendment would give religiously affiliated organizations that receive federal grants and contracts – including hospitals and universities – a free pass to discriminate against individuals who don’t meet standards set by the employer’s religious tenets. It would reverse existing nondiscrimination protections for 28 million people2 in the federal contracting workforce. That means employers could fire someone or refuse to give them a job because they have a same sex partner, use birth control, are a single mother, are transgender or even simply don’t practice the same religion as their employer.
This is unacceptable, and we cannot let extremist Republicans hijack the NDAA to promote their anti-LGBTQ agenda.
Democratic leaders Sen. Reed and Rep. Smith have already said they want the Russell Amendment out of the final version of the NDAA. We need to make sure that Sen. Reed and Rep. Smith know we are with them and are counting on them to hold the line. We also need to make sure that their Republican colleagues Sen. McCain and Rep. Thornberry feel the pressure and know that we won’t let them pass bigotry through the defense bill.
Sen. McCain has a track record of standing against so-called religious freedom measures,3 but he hasn’t yet come out against the Russell Amendment. If McCain takes action consistent with his prior positions regarding these sham measures that give license to discriminate, it will help keep the pressure on Rep. Thornberry and tip the scale toward getting rid of the dangerous Russell Amendment.
Tell Sens. McCain and Reed and Reps. Thornberry and Smith: Do not use tax dollars to fund government discrimination. Remove the Russell Amendment from the final version of the NDAA.
Thank you for standing up against bigotry.
1. Bridget Bowman, “LGBT Provision Divides GOP,” Roll Call, May 17, 2016.
2. Christine Grimaldi, “Senate Democrats Attack ‘Sweeping Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination’ in Defense Authorization,” Rewire, Oct. 25, 2016.