Connect with us

homepage news

House OKs bill permitting anti-LGBT bias among fed’l contractors

Rep. Maloney speaks passionately in opposition on House floor

Published

on

United States Capitol Building, dome, gay news, Washington Blade
United States Capitol Building, dome, gay news, Washington Blade

The U.S. House approved a bill allowing federal contractors to engage in discrimination. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite objections from the White House and LGBT advocates, the U.S. House late Wednesday night approved a major defense spending bill that includes a component undermining President Obama’s executive order against LGBT discrimination.

After hours of debate on the measure, the House approved the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill by a party-line vote of 277-147. Included in the $583 billion package is a provision inserted by Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) seeking to allow religious-affiliated federal contractors to continue to engage in anti-LGBT discrimination.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) praised the bill in a statement upon final passage, ignoring the anti-LGBT provision in the package.

“We need to build a 21st century military capable of confronting the evolving threats we face,” Ryan said. “However, gaping equipment and funding shortfalls are endangering our troops and making it harder for them to execute their missions. The NDAA will help close this readiness gap by modernizing and fully funding our forces. I hope the Senate will join us in passing this bill and sending it to the president’s desk.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said passage of the legislation demonstrates House Republicans share the same worldview as presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“This reckless Republican Congress chose to push bigotry into the national defense bill that is supposed to protect every American,” Pelosi said. “Whatever their empty talk about being shocked by Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric, House Republicans’ votes utterly expose the reality of their own discriminatory agenda.”

Prior to vote on the final passage, Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who’s gay, jointly introduced a motion to recommit that would have removed the anti-LGBT language. Additionally, the measure would have prohibited The Citadel, a prominent military academy, from continuing to fly the Confederate Flag The motion to recommit failed by another party-line 243-181.

Clyburn said on the House floor the motion to recommit wouldn’t kill the bill, nor send it back to committee, but amend the package before proceeding to final passage.

“This amendment would fight discrimination in the military, which erodes obedience, unity, commitment and a spirited corps,” Clyburn said.

Maloney, who’s gay and a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, spoke passionately in favor of adoption of the motion to recommit on the House floor.

“I never voted against the defense bill, and I never thought I would,” Maloney said. “My dad was a veteran and was never killed serving his country. He taught me to respect those who serve, and to speak plainly about right and wrong, so let me speak plainly now: This bill writes anti-gay bias in federal law.”

Maloney added as result of the anti-LGBT provision, the defense bill is no longer about protecting the troops or fighting the ISIS, but “bigotry, plain and simple.”

Referring to the motion to recommit, Maloney added, “This is not some procedural vote to be waived away. This is about whether we will affirm equal rights, or rationalize discrimination.”

“When my husband and I got married after waiting 22 years, so many of you expressed your support,” Maloney said. “Will you now look me in the eye and say it would be OK for me to lose my job over it?”

Representing Republicans in opposition to the motion to recommit was House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who make the case against the measure by focusing on the importance of the bill for U.S. troops and defense.

Referring to final passage, Thornberry said, “Before any member votes ‘no,’ I hope they asked themselves whether they really want to send a message to our troops that, ‘Yep. That member would be supportive of the troops, if only,’ or ‘I’d really support the troops, but for,’ or, ‘I would really support the troops maybe when.’ I don’t think that’s really the right way to go.”

In a seemingly veiled reference to Maloney’s remarks and sexual orientation, Thornberry said of his committee, “Our members don’t always agree, but we’re able to work our way through our differences most of the time and think about the larger cause. You might say we sacrifice some of our individual differences, or preferences, in order to support the men and women who sacrifice so much for us.”

The provision would require the federal government when contracting with religious organizations to afford them exemptions consistent with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since neither of those laws prohibit anti-LGBT bias, the amendment would enable religious organizations doing business with the U.S. government to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Because the measure would have the force of law, it would overrule the executive order signed by President Obama in 2014 prohibiting contractors doing more than $10,000 a year in business with the U.S. government from engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination against employees. The president included no religious exemption in his order, although he left in place a Bush-era exemption allowing religious organizations contracting with the U.S. government to favor co-religionists in hiring practices.

The amendment provides an exemption for “any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution or religious society” contracting with the U.S. government. All of those terms are undefined in the amendment, but the lack of definition for “religious corporation” could allow courts to construe the term broadly applies to any federal contractor — not just religious organizations — in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

The Obama administration said it “strongly objects” to the provision in the defense authorization bill in a Statement of Administration Policy warning President Obama would veto the bill for a host of reasons, including language prohibiting the transfer of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility without a plan approved by Congress. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Republicans included the anti-LGBT component “for reasons that seem rather perverse.”

Late Tuesday, the House Rules Committee had the opportunity to adopt a bipartisan proposal from Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) that would have removed the language, but rejected it on a 9-3 vote.

The next opportunity to remove the amendment the from the defense authorization bill will be after both chambers approve their versions of the defense authorization bill and have to hammer out the differences in conference committee. Unlike the House legislation, the Senate version of the defense authorization bill as it stands lacks the anti-LGBT language.

Winnie Stachelberg, vice president of external affairs for the Center for American Progress, condemned House Republicans in a statement for what she said was making the defense authorization bill “a vehicle to target vulnerable communities.”

“Despite the forceful and widespread public and business outcry against hateful, anti-LGBT legislation in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Indiana, conservatives have chosen — three times over — to import that hate into the halls of Congress,” Stachelberg said. “Taxpayer funds should never subsidize discrimination, and we will continue to work to ensure that when the NDAA finally reaches the president’s desk, it will treat all Americans fairly.”

 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Coronavirus

D.C. mayor to lift all restrictions on bars, nightclubs on June 11

‘We will definitely be celebrating Pride’ next month

Published

on

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday that she will fully lift capacity and other restrictions on most businesses, including restaurants and places of worship, on May 21. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced at a news conference on Monday that a continuing trend of significantly lower numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths in the city has enabled her to fully lift capacity and other restrictions on most businesses, including restaurants and places of worship, on May 21.

The mayor said bars and nightclubs will be allowed to increase indoor capacity from the current 25 percent to 50 percent on May 21, with all capacity restrictions for bars and nightclubs to be removed on June 11.

The mayor’s announcement came after representatives of the city’s nightlife businesses, including the city’s gay bars and restaurants, expressed concern that D.C. had yet to lift its capacity restrictions beyond 25 percent while surrounding jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia had already lifted most restrictions.

“On May 21, restrictions on public and commercial activity, including capacity limits, types of activities, and time restrictions, will be lifted,” the mayor’s directive says.

It says restrictions for bars and nightclubs would continue at a 50 percent capacity from May 21 through June 11. The directive says restrictions for large sports and entertainment venues would also continue from May 21 to June 11, which includes a requirement such events apply for a waiver of the restrictions on a case-by-case basis.

“On June 11, capacity limits and restrictions will be lifted on those venues that cannot fully reopen on May 21,” the directive says.

In response to a question at the news conference, Bowser said the June 11 date would essentially end all restrictions on nightclubs and bars, including the current requirement that they close at midnight rather than the pre-epidemic closing times of 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends.

In a development that could have a major impact on plans for D.C.’s LGBTQ Pride events, the mayor’s revised health directive announced on Monday includes the lifting of all capacity restrictions on large outdoor and indoor sports and entertainment events beginning on June 11.

That change would remove restrictions that have, up until now, prevented D.C.’s Capital Pride Alliance from holding its annual Pride Parade and Festival in June during Pride Month.

Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos told the Washington Blade shortly after the mayor’s announcement that Capital Pride is assessing its options for expanding its current plans for in-person events in June.

“We will definitely be celebrating Pride in June,” Bos said. “We just received this information as well. So, we will be getting further information,” he said. “We have not been informed that they will be issuing any permits yet, so at this time we are moving forward with our original plans for doing things.”

Bos was referring to a city requirement for obtaining permits for street closings and use of other public spaces for events such as a parade or street festival. He said existing plans, among other things, call for an informal parade of cars and other vehicles on June 12 that will drive throughout the city to view homes and businesses that will be decorated with Pride displays such as signs, photos, and other symbols of Pride.

Those familiar with the city’s past Pride events don’t think there will be enough time for Capital Pride to organize the traditional large parade and street festival in time for June. But Capital Pride officials have talked about holding a possible parade and festival in October, and the lifting of the capacity restrictions announced by Bowser on Monday would likely make that possible.

In addition to lifting all capacity restrictions on May 21 for restaurants, the mayor’s May 21 timeframe for lifting restrictions includes these additional venues and events:

  • Weddings and special events
  • Business meetings and seated conventions
  • Places of worship
  • Non-essential retail
  • Personal services
  • Private at-home gatherings
  • Libraries, museums, galleries
  • Recreation Centers
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Pools
  • Office space
  • Schools
  • Childcare

“We’re very pleased that over the last several days, we have seen our case spread, our community spread numbers, venture out of the red into the yellow and fast approaching the green,” Bowser said in referring to a health department chart that shows the changes in coronavirus cases in the city.

“You might remember that our daily case rate peaked in January at 45.9. And today you can see it’s down to 6.6,” she said at her news conference on Monday.

“Throughout this process I have said how proud I am of D.C. residents and businesses who have responded, who have followed health guidance and have worked together to help protect our community throughout the pandemic. And we see it in these numbers today,” she said.

“Containing the virus will continue to require all of us to be focused on maintaining a robust health system,” the mayor said, adding that while over 200,000 D.C. residents have been fully vaccinated since December 2020, “many more thousands” still need to be vaccinated. “Vaccines are free and available on demand at walk-up sites across the District,” she said.

The mayor also noted that the city will continue to require residents and visitors to use a mask in accordance with existing and updated guidance set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mark Lee, coordinator of the D.C. Nightlife Council, an association that represents restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues, said the mayor’s directive on May 10 leaves some details to be addressed but will open the way to bring nightlife businesses back to life.

“What we do know is that on Friday, May 21, businesses begin returning to normal operations and, three weeks later, on June 11, all restrictions for all businesses in the District will end,” Lee said. “It’s a day we’ve long awaited and one that will save much of our community enterprise from financial ruin.”

Continue Reading

homepage news

Family code bill to be introduced in Cuban Parliament in July

CENESEX made announcement during May 4 press conference

Published

on

Mariela Castro at a CENESEX press conference

 

Tremenda Nota is the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba. A Spanish version of this story was published on May 6.

HAVANA — The National Center for Sexual Education on May 4 during a press conference in which it unveiled the program for the 14th annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia events in Cuba announced a bill to amend the family code will be introduced in Parliament in July.

CENESEX Director Mariela Castro Espín said during a meeting with official and foreign media outlets at the International Press Center that this year’s events are part of the process of amending the family code.

She added that this legal change will reflect several rights guaranteed in the constitution, which is why it is necessary to sensitize and educate the Cuban population to avoid prejudice and discrimination.

“I was able to appreciate that the majority of the population … is in favor of recognizing the rights of LGBTI+ people and especially the rights in the family sphere that include the possibility, the option, of marriage,” said Mariela Castro during the press conference.

The official referred to the results of the National Survey on Gender Equality in Cuba, conducted in 2016 and published in 2019. According to this official study, 77 percent of the Cuban population between 15 and 74-years-old said that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people should have the same rights as any other citizen.

CENESEX’s director, however, did not use this information in the 2018 parliamentary debates sparked by Article 68 of the bill to amend the constitution. The idea that it was not the appropriate time to implement same-gender marriage in Cuba eventually won out.

Mariela Castro told Tremenda Nota a few days before the referendum in which Cuban voters approved the current constitution that she was aware of the survey, but she did not explain why she did not use the data it revealed as an argument (in favor of marriage equality.)

“It was a wasted tool that now we can only use in the next referendum,” then-MP Luis Ángel Adán Roble told Tremenda Nota during a February 2019 interview, as did Mariela Castro.

The moment that Adán Roble mentioned has arrived.

It became known during the May 4 press conference that the family code will be introduced in the scheduled parliamentary session in July. The Council of State on March 22 appointed a commission that will be in charge of preparing the bill, but the list of its members was not made public until April 30. None of them are openly LGBTI+.

Activists over the last few weeks have demanded that Parliament reveal the identities of those who make up the commission and the deadline they have to prevent the Family Code. The May 4 press conference resolved the last outstanding point.

The Cuban IDAHOBiT program

Mariela Castro and CENESEX Deputy Director Manuel Vázquez Seijido explained that numerous activities with the goal of making visible and fighting against all types of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will virtually take place from May 4 through May 30.

The IDAHOBiT events in Cuba have a program that includes academic dialogue, social activism and artistic presentations from virtual spaces.

Forum debates are among the activities. The Juventud Rebelde newspaper will host the first one with the theme “Deconstructing myths around same-sex families and partners” and Cubadebate will hold the second called “Constitution and Sexual Rights in Cuba: Progress and Main challenges.”

They also announced at the press conference the books “Paquito el de Cuba: A Decade of Online Activism” and “Non-Heteronormative Sexualities and Gender Identities. Tensions and Challenges for Human Rights” will be presented.

There will be virtual panels titled “Diverse Families: Histories of Non-Hegemonic Lives,” “National Program for the Advancement of Women: Opportunities to Confront Homophobia and Transphobia,” “Keys for Inclusive Communication” and “Sexual Rights and Religious Fundamentalisms.”

Castro Espín explained that CENESEX will use its social media accounts to promote the program, contribute to the sexual education of Cubans and the recognition of rights for all people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

A show against homophobia and transphobia that will officially end the events will be broadcast on social media and on television.

Continue Reading

homepage news

Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

Published

on

Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Trending