A massive bill which had a provision allowing government contractors to fire employees for being LGBT has now been massively changed – for the better.
The amendment was buried deep within the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, and it would have effectively undone President Obama’s 2014 executive action that made it illegal for government contractors to fire or harass workers based on their gender identity or sexuality.
The original aim of the Republicans was to replace that with a provision giving a broad exemption to contractors, giving them the ability to discriminate against LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.
The effects of this would have been far reaching indeed, as it would have affected grants, contracts and purchase orders made by every federal agency, including contracts with hospitals, homeless shelters, colleges, schools, domestic violence shelters and adoption agencies. The implications of this provision were extremely widespread, and could have been very damaging.
While the bill was passed with these amendments, the Senate passed their own NDAA in June missing the language that would have allowed discrimination. This left the fate of the bill very up in the air, as House and Senate negotiators discussed the bill.
Ultimately, the result is a collective sigh of relief from the LGBTQ+ community, as Republicans have agreed to move the anti-LGBT measure from bill after protests from Democrats.
A senior aide said: “The [Rep. Steve Russell] amendment was in response to the executive orders. The NDAA was always an imperfect remedy for that problem. Subsequent to the election, new paths have opened up to address those issues. It’s still a very important issue for the members and they intend to pursue those other paths.”
His wording implies that they will undoubtedly turn to President-elect Donald Trump, who could repeal the executive order from Obama if he wished. While this does mean we can’t rest too easy just yet, it is unclear where Trump stands on this particular issue.
Obama has stood in the way of the NDAA and the old anti-LGBT provision, even threatening to veto it over those very provisions. Now that they have been pulled, he may sign the NDAA into law, but of course come January, Trump may undo all of Obama’s work. For the moment, at least, we can only wait and see.