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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 2, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 49
Compromise on defense spending bill removes anti-LGBT language
Section One
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Compromise on defense spending bill removes anti-LGBT language

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), without controversial language that would have eliminated protections for LGBT employees, will soon go to a vote in Congress.

The NDAA authorizes $618.7 billion in military spending and is considered 'must pass' legislation. Senior Congressional staff members told reporters on November 29 that Democrats and Republicans had reached agreement on final language that preserves LGBT protections put in place by the Obama administration.

In 2014 President Obama signed an executive order adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories for companies that do business with the federal government. Since all major US companies get federal contracts, the order gave federal protection to millions of LGBT employees.

Republican Rep. Steve Russell attached an amendment to the NDAA that would have created a 'religious exemption' to the nondiscrimination order. Democrats objected that the Russell amendment would have allowed employers to discriminate against LGBT employees, and refused to support the NDAA with the amendment added.

Negotiations between the two sides went on for months before a compromise version was put together.

In 2009, then-state Rep. Russell introduced a bill that would have instructed Oklahoma officials to opt out of reporting anti-LGBT hate crimes to the federal government, because, he said, it would hinder the state's prosecution of necrophilia.

'The federal government should not be creating a special class of people, and that is just what they did when they passed and signed this bill,' Russell said at the time.

'All crimes against another person have some level of hate in them, and people can be assured that our laws that protect people against crimes such as murder are sufficient to protect everyone.'

'The law is very vague to begin with,' Russell said. 'Sexual orientation is a very vague word that could be extended to extremes like necrophilia.'

Russell added that he worried the federal government would prosecute religious leaders who spoke out on moral issues. He said he was concerned that if an LGBT person were killed, the blame might be placed onto a religious leader who preached out against the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Compromise on defense spending bill removes anti-LGBT language
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