US House passes bill that would ‘gut’ Obama’s LGBT rights protections

The US House of Representatives has given its approval to an amended bill that would strip Barack Obama’s executive order on LGBT rights.

At present, federal anti-discrimination laws do not protect people based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as Republicans have long blocked any legislation introducing specific protections.

President Obama sought to circumvent Congress in 2014 by issuing an Executive Order that outlawed anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace for federal contractors, providing some limited protections.

However, House Republicans this month pushed through an amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act – crucial funding legislation that must be passed every year.

A last-ditch effort by House Democrats to strip the amendment failed along nearly party lines on a procedural vote.

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney told lawmakers: “The anti-LGBT provision in NDAA is not about supporting our troops, defeating ISIS, or protecting religious liberty – it’s about bigotry, plain and simple.

“We had an opportunity to strike this anti-LGBT language and in doing so, strike a blow for equality, but unfortunately many of our colleagues chose to strip LGBT Americans of basic workplace protections, saying it is once again legal for our LGBT brothers and sisters to be fired because of who they are, and who they love – this is wrong. I am incredibly disappointed in many of my colleagues refusal to take a stand against discrimination and strike the hate.”

Obama’s press spokesperson Josh Earnest said: “There’s a long list of concerns that we have with the proposal that Republicans have put forward.

“So at this point, I don’t think I can single out any one as being sufficient to garner a presidential veto, and the reason for that is just that there are a whole lot of reasons why the bill is bad and why the President strongly opposes it.”

He added: “I think what I can say as a general matter is that the President has been forceful in using his executive authority to prevent discrimination and the executive order that you’ve cited is a good example of that.

“The President has on a number of occasions protected his ability to use that executive authority in his negotiations with Congress.

“We know that there are some in Congress who, for reasons that seem rather perverse to me, believe that the President shouldn’t be taking actions to prevent discrimination.

He added: “The President has worked hard to protect his executive authority that can be used to prevent discrimination, and that’s something that we take quite seriously.”

David Stacy of the Human Rights Campaign said: “Taxpayer funded discrimination is always wrong and today the House followed in the footsteps of North Carolina, Mississippi, Indiana and other states that are targeting LGBT Americans.

“Instead of listening to the super-majority of the American people who support legal protections for LGBT people, the House majority is catering to right wing extremists who would turn back the clock on equality.

“We are very disappointed that House Republican Leadership allowed this bill to move forward with a discriminatory and harmful anti-LGBT provision, and we are committed to working with our allies in the Senate and House to keep this harmful language from the final version of the defense bill.”