On Thursday, in the U.S. House of Representatives, shouts of ‘Shame, shame, shame’ erupted when legislation designed for the protection of civil rights of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual employees of government contractors was narrowly defeated by Republican lawmakers. Sean Maloney, the New York Democrat had introduced a veterans and military spending bill, which had later been amended to introduce this measure. According to the House chamber’s count, the measure initially had enough ‘yes’ votes that would have prevented the defeat. However, the time allowed for voting was extended by the House Republican leaders and they urged their party members to change their stance.
This tactic turned out to be a success and the Republicans were able to defeat it by a vote of 213 to 212. The amendment was backed by all 183 Democrats who had been involved in the voting process and they were also joined by 29 Republicans. The Republicans all gave the 213 ‘no’ votes for the measure. No votes were given by a total of 8 House members, five of which were Democrats and three Republicans. It is possible for lawmakers to change their vote if they wish in the few minutes when the voting is done and the results are being declared.
During the 2016 election season, the LGBT rights have remained a very hot topic. There has been plenty of debate in National politics over whether the religious freedom of bakers is violated when they are making cakes for same-sex couples or whether the government should select the bathrooms that transgender people should use. It was the Democrats who chanted ‘Shame, shame, shame’ and this was obviously directed at the Republicans. The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that the House Republicans are so focused on discriminating against LGBT citizens that they went as far as breaking regular order to get their members to change their votes and support the bigotry of the Republicans.
Republicans who had supported the provision stated that protecting the religious rights of military contractors was necessary and discrimination was not the purpose. The emotionally-charged vote on Thursday came only a few hours after a $602 billion defense authorization bill had been passed by the House on late Wednesday. According to critics, this bill includes the ‘religious freedom’ language that would enable contractors to discriminate against LGBT Americans. Democrats had been angered by the House Rules committee when they had voted along the party lines on Tuesday of not allowing a vote on making an amendment to the National Authorization act that could have eradicated the language.
A separate amendment to the spending bill by the Democrats was also backed by the House by 265-159, which restricts the display of the Confederate battle flag on flagpoles at the cemeteries of the federal veterans. Some conservative Republicans had been angered by this because they believe that the flag is a part of their heritage. Some lawmakers have been trying to get the display of the Confederate banner limited since nine black parishioners had been racially murdered in a church in Charleston.