GOP Blocks LGBT Rights Amendment Days After Orlando Shooting

After Republican leaders claimed to "stand in solidarity" with the LGBT community following the tragedy in Orlando, GOP leaders rejected a proposal to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

Pete Sessions

A proposal that would protect LGBT employees from discrimination by federal contractors was rejected by House Republican leaders — just days after GOP members publicly pledged their "support" for the LGBT community.

For the third time, openly gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) proposed the amendment, attached to a Defense Department spending bill, that would put into law an executive order made by President Barack Obama in 2014 that forbids federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people.

On Tuesday night, Chairman of the House Rules Committee Pete Sessions (R-Texas) blocked Maloney's amendment from even being voted on.

Maloney said that to at least bring the amendment to a vote would have been a sign of standing together with the LGBT community after the largest mass shooting in America's history targeted this populace and left 49 people dead with over  50 wounded.

"It's hard to imagine that any act that is so horrific could lead to anything positive. But if we were going to do anything, it would be a very positive step to say that discrimination has no place in our law and to reaffirm the president's actions in this area," Maloney reported to The Hill. "Seems to me a pretty basic thing to do."

When making the case for his amendment to the committee, Maloney compared the Orlando tragedy to the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting that left nine Black churchgoers dead last June. The massacre sparked a debate about the Confederate flag, and what it represents after numerous photographs surfaced of the killer, Dylann Roof, with Confederate memorabilia. South Carolina removed the flag from its Capitol grounds, and Roof has since been charged with a hate crime.

"They also responded by acting and recognizing that symbols and language matter," Maloney said. "Because hate has no place in our flags, in our workplace, in our country. And it should have no place in federal law."

Sessions, like other notable Republicans, expressed on social media a vague sentiment regarding the shooting — failing to acknowledge LGBT people at all.

He went a step further when speaking to reporters, saying that Pulse, the nightclub where the shooting took place, was not a gay club.

On its website, Pulse describes itself as a gay nightclub. Sessions' office later clarified that the chairman was mistaken in his statement.

Two Republican House members, Reps. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) and Richard Hanna (N.Y.), co-sponsored Maloney's amendment.

Last month, Maloney proposed the same amendment, attached to a Department of Veteran Affairs spending bill. It was slated to pass until a number of Republicans, facing pressure from fellow party members, changed their votes from "yea" to "nay" after the clock had expired. Infuriated Democrats chanted, "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

Maloney described the incident as "one of the ugliest episodes I've experienced in my three-plus years as a member of this House."

One week later Maloney proposed the amendment once again, this time in an Energy Department spending bill. The amendment was approved but the whole bill collapsed the following day.

These instances led House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to put a limit on amendments that can be attached to spending bills.

Maloney's amendment comes in response to one proposed by the GOP in April, which would provide exemptions to Obama's order based on religion. Democrats argued that the amendment is written with such ambiguous language that it could apply to any institution and would, in effect, repeal Obama's order.

"The way this amendment is written, it doesn't matter if you are a religious organization," Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said at the time. "You can basically be a private contractor and this just gives you the right to discriminate if you decide you just don't want to do business with gay people or with anybody else for that matter on a discriminatory basis within a protected class."

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