Remember, way back in July 2014, when President Barack Obama issued an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity? You may not, because by 2016 standards, that’s pretty uncontroversial stuff. But Republicans in the House of Representatives certainly do, and many of them are working very hard to reverse it.
In April, Republican Rep. Steve Russell slipped an amendment into the National Defense Authorization Act that would legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination by government contractors. When the House approved the NDAA on Wednesday, Russell’s provision remained. So, on Thursday, openly gay Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney put forth an amendment to nullify Russell’s amendment.
Maloney’s amendment appeared destined to succeed as the clock neared zero—with a good deal of Republican support. When the clock ran out, lawmakers cheered; as soon as the Republican legislator sitting in the speaker’s chair brought down the gavel, the amendment’s success would be official. But then something odd happened: The gavel didn’t come down. Republicans instead held the vote open while the leadership persuaded GOP lawmakers to vote against the amendment.
Then, suddenly, the vote count began to shift. A handful of Republicans quietly switched their vote, effectively killing the amendment. Those legislators are Rep. Jeff Denham, Rep. Greg Walden, Rep. Mimi Walters, Rep. David Young, Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, and Rep. David Valadao. Ultimately, Republicans held the vote open for an additional eight minutes while they rushed to sink the amendment.
Democrats booed. Lawmakers yelled “Shame!” The scene was near chaos as Democrats realized their victory had been snatched away. Maloney had some choice words for his GOP colleagues:
Obama, for his part, has strongly objected to the anti-LGBTQ amendment and may well veto the NDAA if the amendment is still in force when the bill reaches his desk. House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted that he didn’t know who pushed the defectors to switch their votes, though he defended the anti-LGBTQ amendment.
“This is federalism,” he said. “The states should do this. The federal government shouldn’t stick its nose in its business.”
In other words, Ryan believes that states should decide whether the federal government should allow federal contractors to use federal tax dollars to engage in anti-LGBTQ discrimination when working on federal projects overseen by federal agencies. And this man is the intellectual leader of the Republican Party.