US House of Representatives and Senate passed the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—the final version of the legislation did not include a House-passed provision that would have dramatically expanded religious discrimination with taxpayer funds and undermined President Obama’s executive order prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in federal contracting. The provision — proposed by Representative Steve Russell (R-OK) under the guise of so-called “religious liberty” — had been previously included in the House version of the bill, but not in the Senate version. Conferees did not include it in the conference report.
“While we won this battle, the threat to fairness and equality remains. Now is the time for all of us to double-down on our work. Put your lawmaker’s number on speed-dial, thank them for rejecting the Russell Amendment, and make clear you won’t stand for any attempt to deny or rollback critical protections for LGBTQ people, women, people of color, or any other group of Americans,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “The next administration and members of Congress should look at the lesson learned in North Carolina, where anti-LGBTQ discrimination cost Governor McCrory his election. That sentiment is not unique to the Tar Heel State. Seven in 10 voters across the nation — including 55 percent of those who voted for President-Elect Trump — support the Equality Act’s non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The federal government should never be in the business of creating taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.”
The Russell amendment could have allowed sweeping, taxpayer-funded discrimination in an attempt to promote anti-LGBTQ religious-based discrimination in all contracts and grants across the entire federal government. With far-reaching intended and unintended consequences, the vague amendment could have even undermined existing non-discrimination provisions that protect workers, and perhaps even beneficiaries, against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.