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Congress

House Republicans pass anti-LGBTQ amendments with defense spending bill

GOP members also attack abortion access and diversity programs

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U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Republicans on Thursday passed a series of anti-LGBTQ amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, which establishes recommended funding levels for the U.S. Department of Defense each year.

The legislation also carries riders from GOP members attacking abortion access and diversity programs.

The anti-LGBTQ amendments, which were introduced by Republican U.S. Reps. Matt Rosendale (Mont.), Ralph Norman (S.C.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.), would:

  • Undermine protections against race and LGBTQ discrimination in the military;
  • Restrict abortion access;
  • Deny essential healthcare, including gender-affirming care, to transgender service members and military families;
  • Eliminate access to the Exceptional Family Member Program for trans or gender nonconforming youth and family members thereby limiting healthcare access based on location; 
  • Codify the prohibition on drag shows and use of drag queens as digital ambassadors;
  • Ban books that do not uphold the gender binary as well as disallow Pride month instruction and/or celebration at DoD Education Activity schools; and
  • Allowing only certain flags to be flown over military installations — thereby prohibiting Pride flags from being flown.

“Extreme MAGA Republicans continued their relentless attacks on LGBTQ+ people today by using the National Defense Authorization Act to push their anti-equality agenda,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus.

“They showed their complete disregard for our LGBTQ+ servicemembers by adopting amendments that strip medically-necessary care from transgender servicemembers and their families, censor LGBTQ+ servicemembers by prohibiting the display of Pride flags, and ban books that include transgender people or discuss gender identity,” the congressman said.

Democratic leaders in the House Armed Services Committee issued a statement on Thursday in which they objected to the amendments which, they argue, adulterated the bipartisan and pro-equality NDAA that they passed with their GOP colleagues.

“The bill we passed out of committee sent a clear, united message to our allies and partners, global competitors, and the American people that democracy still works, and Congress is still functional,” they wrote. “We made clear that we are dedicated to recruiting and retaining the strongest, most diverse fighting force and ensuring that everyone, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals, would have the same chance to serve without having to work harder or sacrifice more for the same opportunities.”

“That bill no longer exists. What was once an example of compromise and functioning government has become an ode to bigotry and ignorance. Attacks on reproductive rights, access to basic health care, and efforts to address our country’s history of racism and marginalization of huge swaths of our country will worsen our recruitment and retention crisis, make our military less capable, and do grievous harm to our national defense and national security,” they added.

U.S. Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) issued a separate statement on her vote against the NDAA, writing that “many service members in San Diego are living in their cars because they can’t afford housing, lack affordable child care, or can’t put food on the table — and this massive $886 billion barely makes a dent in improving their quality of life.”

“Instead, Republicans scrapped the bipartisan package that we passed through the House Armed Services Committee and jammed through their far-right wish list, despite the needs of our service members and military families. 

“House Republicans stripped out DoD’s policy covering the travel and transportation costs for abortion and fertility care — even though it’s consistent with existing law. They passed cuts to necessary gender-affirming care — even though transgender people are more likely to serve in the U.S. military than cisgender people. And House Republicans backed policies to attack diversity programs that help ensure that those defending our country look like our country,” the congresswoman wrote.

U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) also issued a statement, “Regrettably, I must oppose this bill, which is dead-on-arrival in the U.S. Senate.”

“I owe it to my constituents to vote no on any legislation that would strip away reproductive healthcare from our servicemembers, eliminate crucial diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and discriminate against transgender servicemembers,” Brown said.

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a letter to congressional offices urging members to oppose the NDAA amendments “that seek to undermine protections against race discrimination in the military, restrict abortion access, and deny health coverage to transgender service members and military families, and censor protected speech.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to the White House for comment.

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Congress

HRC ad campaign slams ‘extremist’ House GOP’s role in looming government shutdown

Funding deadline is Oct. 1.

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U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Human Rights Campaign launched an ad campaign on Monday slamming House Republicans for advancing anti-LGBTQ and other “out of touch demands” rather than working to clear must-pass spending bills before the month’s end to avoid a government shutdown.

In the weeks since Congress returned from the summer recess, opportunities to forestall this outcome narrowed with each passing day as small groups of the GOP conference’s most conservative members obstructed votes, led an open rebellion against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and added anti-LGBTQ and other far-right amendments to all 12 appropriations bills, effectively dooming the prospects of their passage by the Senate.

HRC’s announcement of plans to run the six-figure blitz “across major national outlets, cable networks and digital streaming services” included a 30-second ad titled “Grind to a Halt,” which accuses House Republicans of “trying to limit the health care you and your family can access, ban books and flags, and block enforcement of civil rights laws.”

In a statement, HRC President Kelley Robinson said the conservative lawmakers had “hijacked the appropriations process to attack LGBTQ+ communities rather than doing their jobs,” noting that a shutdown would “interrupt critical government services, hurt working families and endanger our national security.”

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Congress

House GOP sinks their own spending bill, Dems object to anti-LGBTQ riders

Vote was 216-212

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U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of four hardline House Republicans on Thursday joined Democratic colleagues to sink their own spending bill, a $886 billion military appropriations package full of riders from GOP members that include anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ provisions.

The 216-212 vote raised the likelihood of a government shutdown if lawmakers are unable to forge a path forward before the end of September.

“Instead of decreasing the chance of a shutdown, Speaker McCarthy is actually increasing it by wasting time on extremist proposals that cannot become law in the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

His counterpart in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), expressed frustration with his own caucus, characterizing the impasse he has reached with colleagues as “frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate.”

“And then you got all the amendments if you don’t like the bill,” he continued. “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down — it doesn’t work.”

A group of 155 House Democrats on Thursday issued a letter objecting to anti-LGBTQ provisions in the bill, the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, addressing the message to U.S. Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chair and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The effort was led by Congressional Equality Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and the co-chairs of the Caucus’s Transgender Equality Task Force, U.S. Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

Specifically, the letter argues several anti-equality amendments would “actively target LGBTQ+ service members and LGBTQ+ dependents and threaten the recruitment, retention, and readiness of our Armed Forces.”

Among these are riders prohibiting coverage of gender affirming healthcare interventions for service members and their dependents; banning LGBTQ Pride flags, drag shows and other events; and restricting funding for certain books in schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity.

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Congress

Senate confirms federal judge who fought for marriage equality as a lawyer

Three Republicans voted for Rita Lin’s nomination

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Judge Rita Lin (Photo credit: University of California, San Francisco School of Law)

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted 52-45 to confirm Rita Lin’s nomination by President Joe Biden to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The first Chinese American woman to serve in the role, Lin previously fought for marriage equality as an attorney in private practice with the multinational firm Morrison and Foerster.

As co-counsel in a 2012 case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, she secured the first ruling striking down the law, which proscribed marriage as exclusively heterosexual unions, since President Obama announced his administration would no longer defend it.

The Senate’s vote to confirm Lin was supported by all present Democratic members and three Republicans: U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

Last year, during hearings for her nomination in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) objected to an article she wrote in 1998 while a junior at Harvard University calling members of the Christian Coalition “bigots.”

The Christian Coalition was founded by the late Christian media mogul Pat Robertson, who attracted controversy throughout his life and career for making sexist, homophobic and racist remarks.

Lin was appointed as a judge in the San Francisco Superior Court in 2018, and she currently presides over felony and misdemeanor criminal trials. She previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney in San Francisco.

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