House GOP leaders block vote on LGBT rights 2 days after Orlando massacre

© Mike Blake
Just two days after a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, House GOP leaders blocked a vote on a proposal drafted by Democrats that have protected LGBT employees against sexual discrimination.

An amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill was expected to hit the House floor this week, with the vote coming in the aftermath of the Florida massacre in which 49 people were killed. However, late on Tuesday evening, the House Rules Committee quashed the scheduled vote, undermining the efforts of Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-New York) to push his proposal through. 

Openly gay, Maloney filed an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act. If passed, the proposal would have expanded anti-discrimination rules to federal contractors. 

“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 told The Hill. “Seems to me a pretty basic thing to do.”

Speaking in support of his proposal, Maloney recalled last year’s racially motivated shooting at a historic black church in Charleston. The tragedy led to restrictions being placed on displaying the Confederate flag.

“They also responded by acting and by recognizing that symbols and language matter,” Maloney told the House Rules Committee. “Because hate has no place in our flags, in our workplace, or in our country. And it should have no place in federal law.”

In early June, Maloney also filed an amendment to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act that was defeated by House GOP leaders in a 2–8 vote.  

Maloney’s gay rights amendment has already been “killed” twice by Republicans, who rejected the draft when voting on annual energy and water spending bills.

Maloney had proposed an amendment to the Department of Veterans Affairs bill last month, but it failed by one vote, 212-213, after GOP leaders reportedly pressured Republicans to switch their votes at the last minute.

Maloney seemed to have secured a victory later in May, when the House Committee adopted an amendment that he had proposed which was attached to the $37.4 billion Energy Department spending bill in the second round. However, the triumph did not last long, as the next day the bill did not weather the House floor. Conservatives struck down the amendment, citing concerns over religious freedom exemptions.

These two cases have reportedly prompted House Speaker Paul Ryan to limit amendments to appropriations bills in order to prevent the entire appropriations process from failing.