May 26, 2016 at 11:51 am EST | by Chris Johnson
House votes to protect Obama’s LGBT executive order
Sean Patrick Maloney, gay news, Washington Blade

An LGBT amendment proposed by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) passed on the House floor. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

After an unsuccessful vote last week in which seven House Republicans changed their votes on the measure, the U.S. House late Wednesday approved an amendment voiding language in major defense spending legislation undercutting President Obama’s executive order against anti-LGBT discrimination.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who’s gay and a co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, introduced the amendment, which was approved by a vote of 233-186 as part of a $37.4 billion package making appropriations for energy and water infrastructure in the upcoming fiscal year.

The amendment prohibits the spending of U.S. funds in contravention of Obama’s 2014 executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT workplace discrimination. Maloney’s amendment would nullify a provision in the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill inserted by Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) that would undermine that executive order.

Following the vote, Maloney tweeted out a statement declaring the adoption of his amendment was a win for LGBT equality.

The House approved the amendment after Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) offered a second-degree amendment clarifying the Maloney measure doesn’t apply “as required by the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment and Article I of the Constitution.” The Pitts measure was adopted by voice vote.

The Washington Blade placed a call in with Russell’s office seeking comment on the adoption of an amendment undermining the lawmaker’s anti-LGBT provision in the defense authorization bill.

The House adopts the amendment after last week rejecting the same measure from Maloney on a narrow vote of 213-212. As the vote was being tallied, the measure seemed as though it was headed toward passage, but then time was extended for voting and seven House Republicans changed their votes. House Democrats chanted, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” on the House floor and LGBT advocates later criticized the vote.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Action Fund, hailed the House adoption of the Maloney amendment in a statement.

“These protections impact millions of employees of federal contractors,” Carey said. “Now these hard-working people and their families will be able to sleep a little easier knowing that they can’t be fired because of who they are or love. We would like to thank U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney for his leadership on this issue. We’d also like to express our thanks to all House members who voted for this amendment.”

But the House also adopted amendments seen to undermine LGBT rights as part of the same legislation, making the adoption of the Maloney less than a clear cut victory for LGBT rights supporters.

By a vote of 227-192, the House approved an amendment from Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) prohibiting the revocation of federal funds to North Carolina amid continuing criticism over the state’s anti-LGBT law.

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the adoption of an amendment in a statement to the Washington Blade.

“It is deeply disappointing that the House has adopted this amendment that is nothing more than a naked attempt to prevent the federal government from acting to enforce our nation’s civil rights laws,” Thompson said. “It is designed to provide North Carolina with a get-out-of-jail-free card to violate federal civil rights laws that protect transgender people and face no financial consequence for doing so. This is an attack on the very foundation of a half century of federal civil rights protections.”

In the wake of North Carolina’s enactment of its anti-LGBT law, federal law agencies launched a review to determine whether it would result in a loss of federal funds to the state, but the White House has said the Obama administration determined it won’t revoke federal funds to North Carolina as litigation against the law proceeds through the courts.

Also adopted by the House by a vote of 233-186 was an amendment proposed by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) prohibiting the spending of federal funds in contravention of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, Executive Order 13279 or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Anti-LGBT forces have cited the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as an excuse for engaging in anti-LGBT discrimination for religious reasons. Among them is Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who invoked the 1993 law to defend her enforcement of an “no licenses” policy in her office after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for same-sex marriage nationwide.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in statement the adoption of the Maloney amendment “does not hide the reality that House Republicans have chosen to make enabling discrimination against LGBT Americans a top legislative priority”

“With the Pittenger Amendment and the Byrne Amendment, Republicans overwhelmingly voted to support HB 2, the hateful and discriminatory state law in North Carolina, and to enable anti-LGBT bigotry across our country,” Pelosi added. “House Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. History will not look kindly on the votes Republicans proudly took to target Americans because of whom they are or whom they love. House Republicans’ vile crusade against LGBT Americans is a complete disgrace.”

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

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