26 May 2016

US House Shelved Bill on LGBT Special Contract

House LGBT Special Bill
Many people were elated and ecstatic in the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives last 19 May as Republican lawmakers defeated legislation that seeks to give special and elitist rights to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of government contractors.

The measure, an amendment to a veterans and military construction spending bill introduced by New York Democrat Sean Maloney, initially had enough "yes" votes to pass, according to the count in the House chamber.

Fortunately, House Republican leaders had enough sense to extend the time allowed for the vote as they urged enough party members to change their positions to defeat it by a vote of 213 to 212.

All 183 Democrats who voted backed the amendment, joined by 29 Republicans. All 213 "no" votes were from Republicans. Eight House members - three Republicans and five Democrats - did not vote. Lawmakers are allowed to change their vote in the few minutes between voting and the result being declared.

LGBT special privileged rights have been a hot-button issue during the 2016 election season. National politics have featured debate over whether making cakes for same-sex couples violates bakers' religious freedom or whether the government should decide which public bathrooms are used by transgender people.

Republicans who backed the provision said it was necessary to protect the religious rights of military contractors and not intended to be discriminatory.

The emotionally-charged vote came hours after the House late last 18 May passed a US$ 602 billion defense authorization bill that included "religious freedom" language that would allow contractors to protect their business against the unusual demands of LGBT individuals.

The House Rules committee had angered Democrats by voting along party lines not to allow a vote on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have eliminated that language.

The House also backed by 265-159 a separate Democratic amendment to the spending bill that limits the display of the Confederate battle flag on flagpoles at federal veterans' cemeteries.

The measure angered some conservative Republicans from southern states, who argue that the flag is a symbol of their heritage.

Some lawmakers have been seeking to limit displays of the Confederate banner since a racially motivated murder of nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, S.C. last year.