Republicans Amend Defense Bill With A Federal North Carolina Anti-LGBT Measure

* The following is an opinion column by R Muse *

Throughout the outrage, protests, and economic boycotts of North Carolina’s bigoted H.B.2 law there has been a predictable silence from congressional Republicans; it is an election year after all. However, based on the theocratic sensibilities of congressional Republicans and their past record of using the religious right’s creepy Christianity to punish and discriminate against various groups of Americans, they likely lusted to pass a federal version of HB2; although it would never be signed into law by President Obama.

The President will, though, sign legislation funding the military to maintain national defense readiness. Since House Republicans are working on the critical National Defense Authorization Act to fund the military, a bill the President is certain to sign into law; they tucked an amendment in that repeals all of the President’s previous executive protections for the LGBT community.

There have been some Republicans in Congress who had no issue saying they really liked what happened in North Carolina and pondered how they could enact the same anti-LGBT discrimination at the federal level. Last week, Republicans found a way to copy North Carolina bigots by adding an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act the purposely rolls back all of the LGBT protections introduced by the Obama administration in 2014 in a way that fairly mirrors North Carolina’s HB2.

The Republican copying North Carolina’s religious Republican bigots, Representative Steve Russell (R-OK), was thrilled to introduce his federal version of North Carolina’s HB2 during a very late Thursday night as a stealth amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act in the House Armed Services Committee.  No doubt even a theocrat like Russell has seen the outrage and push-back against North Carolina religious bigots and thought if he surreptitiously inserted the hateful provision in a bill crucial to national defense, no-one would notice or care.

Preacher Russell’s stealth amendment passed 33-29 on a party-line vote in the House Armed Services Committee after midnight to advance the full defense bill to the House floor with a religious element tucked away from prying eyes. The defense spending bill will certainly pass the House, even with a religious license to discriminate amendment; the lazy, overpaid Republicans in the Senate have not even begun to consider its version of the defense bill but it is certain the amendment will be welcomed with open arms by religious Republicans in the upper chamber.

Even though the text of Russell’s “religious legislation,” and it is purely religious legislation, does not “specifically mention or cite sexual orientation or gender identity,”  like the various state-level anti-LGBT theocratic laws “that absence that actually defines what he hopes to accomplish with it;” legalize discrimination against the LGBT community at the federal level. Naturally, the cowardly religious Republican used the critically important defense spending bill to sneak an unconstitutional religious attack on Americans in a crucial defense bill targeting a specific segment of society.

Republicans have never supported the Constitution’s protections against discrimination, and because there is nothing in the founding document specifically prohibiting discrimination based on a hateful religion, they have attacked the LGBT community ruthlessly. Most Americans likely believe that the Fourteenth Amendment provides all the equal rights protections Americans could ever require, but this a matter of imposing the evangelical religion that like its rule book the bible is rife with god-ordered discrimination and bigotry.

Since Republicans adhere to the Bible as the law of the land, in 2013 they proposed a “license to discriminate” to be enacted within the confines of the military. That measure was eventually transformed into a “watered-down conscience clause” to allow religious military personnel to soothe their consciences by abusing gays.  Also in 2013, Republicans attempted to place a religious ban on same-sex weddings on military bases. That bill co-sponsored by 16 religious Republicans banned any military chaplain from officiating at any same-sex wedding because the “bible tells them so.”

Because there is no federal law explicitly offering any protections in employment, housing, or public accommodations to the LGBT community, in 2014 President Obama stepped up and protected roughly 28 million employees at over 30,000 companies. The President issued an executive order stating that any entity that contracts with the United States federal government must have a policy in place to protect its LGBT employees. Obviously the executive order did not protect every American worker, but protecting 28 million people is better than none at all. The President’s order also “incentivized some companies and corporations to establish inclusive policies that previously did not exist” if they wanted to do work for the federal government.

The Republicans’ sneaky amendment was designed specifically to override President Obama’s executive order; something the Oklahoma theocrat Russell confirmed in the discussion that followed his version of HB2’s introduction. It specifically stipulates that when the Federal Government establishes any kind of contract or financial relationship with any religious-identified entity, it must “provide protections and exemptions” consistent with various acts that allow religious entities to thumb their noses at the U.S. Constitution and any state or federal anti-discrimination laws.

In short order a “growing coalition of LGBT, secular, legal, and religious organizations” has come out in opposition to Russell’s anti-LGBT amendment. The various groups wrote that “This amendment would authorize taxpayer-funded discrimination in each and every federal contract and grant. The government should never fund discrimination and no taxpayer should be disqualified from a job under a federal contract or grant because he or she is the ‘wrong’ religion.” That sentiment would be all well and good if America was not a theocracy, or if the theocratic party controlling Congress and a majority of state legislatures had any respect for the U.S. Constitution or every American’s civil rights, but none of that is the case.

Americans, like the United States Constitution, are increasingly being assaulted by religious Republicans and there is little, if any, outrage or pushback. For dog’s sake, there are no politicians even citing the unconstitutionality of Congress or state legislatures establishing religion as the source of these horrific theocratic laws. Republicans are only escalating their religious crusade against the LGBT community, women’s reproductive rights, public schools and the U.S. Constitution because Americans are too cowardly to stand up against theocracy.