April 29, 2016 at 12:07 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
House rejects ban on LGBT discrimination in D.C. voucher schools

Ted Lieu, conversion therapy ban, Democratic Party, California, United States House of Representatives, ex-gay, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced an amendment to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in D.C. voucher schools. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. House rejected on Friday a measure that would have prohibited discrimination against students in D.C. voucher schools on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Republican-controlled chamber voted down the measure, which would have amended a bill to reauthorize to the D.C. voucher school program, by a largely party-line vote of 228-167.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) offered the measure as a motion to recommit, which generally kills legislation by sending it back to committee, but on the House floor said his measure would simply amend the legislation before proceeding to final passage.

Lieu, who’s also lead sponsor of legislation that would ban “ex-gay” conversion therapy nationwide, said he introduced the measure because “LGBT kids are often victims of bullying and hate.”

Citing a report from the Human Rights Campaign that found LGBT students are twice as likely as their non-LGBT peers to face verbal harassment in school, Lieu said recently enacted state anti-LGBT laws “continue to send a message that being LGBT is not OK, and that is wrong.”

“It is wrong to systemically discriminate against LGBT students because they’re LGBT,” Lieu said. “We need a send our kids our message saying whom they love and the gender they identify with does not dictate their self-worth, and it certainly should not dictate whether they can get a voucher.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who managed floor time on behalf of Republicans for the bill, urged fellow lawmakers to vote against the LGBT proposal.

“We went through regular order in our committee,” Chaffetz said. “We had field hearings, we had a markup. The gentleman was free to offer an amendment in committee. It did not happen. This is a school choice bill. This is a bill that gives parents the opportunity to make choices about where their students can attend, and this scholarship programs has been a very valuable tool, and I’m opposed to the motion to recommit.”

Each of the six openly LGB members of Congress voted in favor of the amendment: Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Five House Republicans who support same-sex marriages — Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and David Jolly (R-Fla.) — voted with their voted with fellow Republicans against the pro-LGBT measure. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), another Republican who supports same-sex marriage, didn’t vote on the amendment.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said the lack of support from these Republicans for the amendment was of no significance.

“Nothing of interest here,” Angelo said. “This was a procedural vote that bore out — as so many other votes on Capitol Hill do — along pure partisan lines. I’m not losing any sleep wondering about the continued commitment of all our GOP allies to marriage equality and LGBT non-discrimination.”

Rep. Richard Nolan (D-Minn.) is recorded as voting with Republicans against the measure even though he’s a co-sponsor of comprehensive LGBT discrimination known as the Equality Act.

In a letter immediately after the vote sent to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and obtained by the Washington Blade, Nolan seeks to amend the record, explaining he inadvertently voted against the amendment when he intended to vote “yes.”

“I inadvertently voted in the negative,” Nolan writes. “In my view, every child deserves access to quality to education without fear of being ostracized, punished or discriminated against because of their race, religion, gender, ability or because they’re LGBT. I have long been an outspoken advocate for efforts to protect individuals from discrimination because of who they are or whom they love. That has not and will not change.”

The House approved the legislation as a whole by a vote of 224-181. Supporters include D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and eight D.C. council members because it provides funding for public and D.C. voucher schools.

The White House has said it opposes the legislation, but hasn’t explicitly said President Obama would veto the bill. Observers have said the legislation is unlikely to succeed in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • I was at a presentation once by one of the gay groups that works on bullying in schools. I asked if they broke down the statistics they collect by type of school – government, charter, parochial, independent. They don’t. One suspects bullying happens mainly in government schools, and that school choice would mean more gay kids would be freer to go to schools at which they feel comfortable.

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