House Republicans blocked a vote on LGBT nondiscrimination protections just days after the deadliest shooting in mass history claimed the lives of 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
Following the horrific attack on the Florida gay bar, Democratic congressman Sean Maloney reintroduced an amendment to a defense spending bill that would prohibit the federal government from contracting with companies that discriminate against LGBT workers. Only 18 states have laws on the books that ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and Maloney believes that this legislation would show the government’s support for the LGBT community at a crucial moment.
“It’s hard to imagine that any act that is so horrific could lead to anything positive,” Maloney told The Hill. “But if we were going to do anything, it would be a very positive step to say that discrimination has no place in our law and to reaffirm the president’s actions in this area.”
In 2015, President Obama issued an executive order to ensure that “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people employed by federal contractors across the country will now receive new legal protections designed to ensure they are judged by the quality of their work, not who they are or whom they love.” By ensuring the order is enforced, Maloney’s legislation merely would affirm Congress’s commitment to the president’s stance on LGBT rights.
The amendment was attached to a bill on defense spending, but the House Rules Committee, which makes decisions on what legislation will be debated on the floor, ruled Tuesday night that they would not be allowing the House to discuss it.
This is now the third time that Maloney’s LGBT amendment has been stonewalled by Congress. On May 19, the GOP killed the legislation after it already had the votes to pass. In a last-minute maneuver, House Republicans coerced colleagues into switching their votes in order to ensure its failure. As the bill was voted down, Democrats chanted, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” on the House floor.
The legislation was reintroduced the following day. While the previous version was attached to a Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, this one was tied to a bill on energy and water spending. It again died.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has accused Democrats of hijacking the appropriations process to advance their political agenda. “Well, what we just learned today is that the Democrats weren’t looking to advance an issue,” Ryan told reporters. “They were looking to sabotage the appropriations process.”
He has since decided to limit the number of amendments attached to House legislation, effectively killing Maloney’s bill.
Drew Hammill, an aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said this decision is undemocratic and an affront to equal rights. “Apparently, discriminating against the LGBT community is more important to the Republican leadership than an open and transparent amendment process,” Hammill told The Washington Post.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, Maloney was undeterred, reaffirming his commitment to seeing these protections passed.
“We need to write discrimination out of our law right away,” Maloney said. “There can be no better tribute to these innocent victims in Florida than to say we as a country are going to make ourselves more perfect as a union by ending LGBT discrimination.”