Metro Weekly

House passes defense bill with anti-LGBT provision intact

Amendment on separate bill seeking to counteract the provision fails on a close vote

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. (Photo:  Office of U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, via Wikimedia).

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. (Photo: Office of U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, via Wikimedia).

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a defense appropriations bill with a provision that will potentially allow employment discrimination against LGBT people by federal contractors.

The full National Defense Authorization Act passed the House by a 277-147 margin, with five Republicans — mostly known for their libertarian leanings — voting against it and 40 Democrats, mostly from moderate or conservative House districts or those with a significant military presence, voting for the bill.

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), an openly gay member of the House, decried the inclusion of the anti-LGBT language in the defense bill — and attempts to block its removal — calling the situation “one of the ugliest episodes” he’d ever experienced during his three-year tenure in Congress.

“The inclusion of such hate-based language in a defense bill designed to support our military sends exactly the wrong message,” he said. “My amendment today gives us another chance. It gives us a chance to correct some of the damage done last night by the misguided efforts of some members of this body.”

Maloney’s amendment eventually failed by one vote, but only after several Republicans appeared to switch their votes while the vote was held open well past the time it was supposed to be closed. This led Democrats to cry foul, accusing Republican leadership of pressuring members to change their votes to allow the discriminatory provision to stand.

“In the past day, House Republicans have gone out of their way to rig votes and block bills that prevent discrimination against LGBT people,” Maloney said in a statement after his amendment was defeated. “They snatched discrimination from the jaws of equality. When they break their our own rules to make sure taxpayer dollars can go to folks who discriminate, they showed who they truly are — bigots and cowards.”

Watch Rep. Maloney’s remarks on the House floor below:

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com