Key defense bill contains “religious freedom” language aimed at providing cover to discriminatory federal contractors

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which contained language stripping nondiscrimination protections from LGBT government contractors.  A number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers had previously engaged in multiple attempts to remove the provision.

As it was passed, a portion of the bill provides protections to “any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution, or religious society” that receives a federal contract, and applies to “any branch or agency of the federal government.”  The measure is aimed at combatting a 2014 executive order in which President Obama prohibited federal contractors from discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer was “outraged” by the measure and wrote in a statement, “Congress owes it to LGBT workers and their families to ensure that they are equally protected by our laws and not singled out for mistreatment.”  The version of the NDAA passed by the House must now be reconciled with the Senate version of the bill, which does not contain the “religious freedom” provision.  President Obama has said he would veto the legislation as passed by the House.

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