May 20, 2016 at 3:45 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
White House: Anti-LGBT provision ‘has nothing to do’ with defense

Eric Schultz, gay news, Washington Blade

Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz slammed House Republicans for including an anti-LGBT provision on the defense bill. (Washington Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz declined directly to comment Friday on the spectacle on the U.S. House floor after an attempt to defeat an anti-LGBT amendment failed, but slammed lawmakers over the controversial provision.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, Schultz recalled the Obama administration has issued a veto threat over the House version of the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill over numerous provisions, including language impairing the ability to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

But Schultz was fiery about another component of the bill to which the administration objects: A provision undercutting President Obama’s 2014 executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.

“One of the other objectionable pieces of this legislation is that it would make it easier to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation,” Schultz said. “That has nothing to do with our national defense. I can’t, for the life of me, figured out why Republicans would want to insert an ideological rider into a defense bill, let alone one that is mean-spirited like that.”

Schultz continued the Republican effort aimed at undermining Obama’s order is “ill-advised” and “inconsistent with American values of equality and tolerance.”

Although Schultz said he saw the incident in which seven House Republicans changed their votes from “yes” to “no” on a measure seeking to void the language, leading to chants of “Shame!” from House Democrats, he declined to say whether he thinks Republican leadership strong-armed those lawmakers to change their votes.

“I can’t speak to the machinations of the House floor yesterday,” Schultz said. “I’m sorry.”

On Thursday, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment to a military construction appropriations bill that would have voided the anti-LGBT language in the defense bill, but the measure failed 213-212 after the time for voting was extended beyond regular procedure and seven House Republicans changed their votes. Maloney accused House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) of whipping lawmakers who went from “yes” to “no.”

National Log Cabin Republicans on Friday sent an open letter to McCarthy over the incident, saying it played out in a way contrary to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) promise to return regular order to the House.

The Blade has placed a call in with McCarthy’s office seeking comment on the Log Cabin letter.

Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin, said in a separate statement the incident on the House floor was a “sham” and “played up everything wrong with Congress today.”

“Beyond overriding an executive order that existed under President George W. Bush, yesterday’s actions on the House floor defy the repeated promises of House Leadership to operate under regular order and with transparency,” Angelo said. “Log Cabin Republicans commends the 29 Republicans who refused to succumb to strong-arm tactics and voted for the amendment, and demands those Congress members who perpetuated this fraudulence be held accountable.”

In 2014, Obama included no religious exemption in the executive order, but left in place a Bush-era exemption allowing religious organizations contracting with the U.S. government to favor co-religionists in hiring practices.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, strongly condemned the anti-LGBT provision in a statement Friday.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that the House majority leadership would push this outrageous amendment that is designed to promote discrimination against LGBTQ employees of federal contractors and to destroy people’s livelihoods,” Carey said. “Our hope is that the champions of equality will prevail and this attack on people’s right to make a living for themselves and their families will be weeded out in conference committee.”

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

1 Comment
  • People who vote for Republicans have a cognitive deficiency. They should be subject to a mandatory MRI (to see if there is a brain in there) and a psychiatric examination. Having Republicans in Congress is worse than having the Taliban in Congress. The GOP must be forcibly disbanded and banned.

    I have heard “I vote for the man not the party,” but if you vote for the man, you get the party. Just the fact that a politician is a Republican is enough to disqualify him for my vote. Which is what I told a local Republican candidate who solicited my vote in person.

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