April 16, 2015 at 9:54 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Resolution to kill D.C. LGBT rights bill introduced in House
Vicky Hartzler, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House on Tuesday calling on Congress to disapprove a bill passed by the D.C. City Council and signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser that would ban discrimination against LGBT students attending religious schools.

Reps. Bill Flores (R-Tex.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) signed on as co-sponsors to the resolution.

“By passing this act, the D.C. City Council has infringed on the fundamental right of religious freedom,” Hartzler said in a statement released on Wednesday. “No faith-based school should be forced to endorse, fund, or sponsor groups that do not share their beliefs.”

Hartzler was referring to the D.C. Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014, which was passed by the Council in December and signed by Bowser in January.

The legislation calls for repealing a provision in the D.C. Human Rights Act enacted by Congress in 1989 that exempts religious schools from having to comply with the Human Rights Act’s ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The provision is known as the Armstrong Amendment, which was written and introduced by then Sen. William Armstrong (R-Colo.).

Hartzler introduced her resolution one day after a separate disapproval resolution was introduced seeking to kill the D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, which the city approved around the same time it approved the Human Rights Amendment Act.

The latter bill would ban employers from discriminating based on their personal reproductive health decisions, including a decision to have an abortion.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) last month introduced identical disapproval resolutions targeting the same two D.C. bills.

Under congressional procedures for passing disapproval resolutions, both the House and Senate must pass and the president must sign such a resolution during a 30 legislative day congressional review period.

That period is expected to end on May 1.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has jurisdiction over D.C. bills, has scheduled a markup hearing to finalize the disapproval resolution targeting the reproductive rights bill. The committee has not announced whether it would markup Hartzler’s resolution targeting the Human Rights Amendment Act during that same hearing.

“Everyone knows they will not succeed in this process because President Obama is not going to sign these resolutions,” said Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is lobbying against the resolutions.

Thompson and other opponents of the disapproval resolutions have said supporters of the resolutions most likely are using them to draw attention to and support for their ultimate objective, which is to kill the bills by persuading Congress to attach an amendment to the D.C. appropriations bill blocking the city from implementing the two measures.

The latter approach has a better chance of succeeding, political observers have said, because Obama would be much less likely to veto the city’s appropriations bill. The appropriations or “budget” bill is needed to fund all of the city’s agencies and programs – even though most of the funds come from D.C. taxpayers.

LGBT advocates and D.C. government officials have disputed claims by opponents of the Human Rights Amendment Act that it would force religious schools such as Catholic University to endorse or fund LGBT student groups.

Supporters of the bill point to a 1987 D.C. Court of Appeals ruling that said the D.C. Human Rights Act’s provision banning discrimination based on sexual orientation could not force religious schools to officially recognize or fund LGBT student groups. The ruling held that religious schools would be required only to provide those groups with the same access to meeting space and other facilities that are provided to other student groups.

Supporters say the Human Rights Amendment Act would restore the D.C. Human Rights Act to its original wording from before Congress changed it. Supporters, including the director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, Monica Palacios, have said the limitations placed by the 1987 Court of Appeals ruling would remain in place. Thus religious schools would not be forced to recognize or fund LGBT clubs.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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