Op-Ed ● Human and Civil Rights
For Immediate Release: 
June 8, 2016

Wanted to be sure you saw today’s op-ed by Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5) and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) in the Washington Post about how House Republicans are bending rules in the House of Representatives to allow discrimination against LGBT Americans. To read the op-ed, click here or see it below:

Washington Post

GOP is ‘Rigging’ System to Discriminate Against LGBT People

By Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney

June 8, 2016

Two weeks ago, after pledging a more open process in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan suddenly announced that he may change the House rules to make it harder for members to put forward changes to legislation.

The reason was simple: the open process Ryan had promised was hindering House Republicans’ long-standing opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. While it might sound like sniping over rules and procedure, it is much more. Republican leaders now might bend the rules in order to advance discrimination.

The catalyst for Ryan’s possible about-face unfolded in the House the week of May 16. In the dead-of-night, Republicans inserted a provision into a defense bill that would reverse President Obama’s executive order banning discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.

Democrats and some Republicans tried removing the provision, but House leadership blocked those efforts. The defense bill was adopted with the anti-LGBT language over our objections.

What followed was staggering. On the morning of May 19, as the House debated amendments on a bill funding military and veterans programs, House Democrats took another shot. We introduced the Maloney amendment to ban federal funding for contractors that discriminate against LGBT Americans. It was a simple up-or-down vote – either you support discrimination or you support equality.

Initially, 35 Republicans joined with the Democrats in supporting the amendment. The House was moments from striking a powerful, bipartisan blow against discrimination. But that isn’t what happened.

As the clock timing the vote wound down, the tally showed the Maloney amendment winning a narrow majority.  While cheers rang out for equality, Republican leaders quietly went to work.

The Republican congressman overseeing the voting was instructed to hold that vote open. Members of Congress exchanged puzzled looks as the clock stood at 0:00. Time was up. The Maloney amendment had the votes. Why hadn’t it passed?

The answer came quickly. At first, the vote tally read 217 to 206, which meant the amendment passed. Then the board changed: 2142 to 213, which meant the amendment failed.  A shocked outcry sounded from the Democratic benches.  Minutes ticked by. Votes were switching. By Republican rules, if the presiding officer had asked if any members wanted to change their votes, then the voting machines would have shut down.

The presiding officer did not pose that question. If he had done so, members would have gone to the front of the House chamber to switch their votes. But no members could be seen there. Not only were Republican leaders holding this vote open indefinitely to strong-arm their members; they were doing so in secret.

Democrats erupted into shouts of: “Shame!  Shame!” As soon as the board read 212 to 213, the gavel slammed down, and voting was closed. Seven Republican members appeared to have switched their votes, and the Republican leadership violated its own rules to make that happen. Shame indeed.

Undeterred, we tried once more on May 25.  This time, reeling from the public outcry that followed their earlier vote, enough Republicans joined with Democrats to attach the Maloney amendment to the energy and water development appropriations bill.

However, the next morning when the amended bill was called up for a vote, a majority of Republicans voted to defeat their own bill rather than allow it to move forward with the anti-discrimination measure attached.

Republican opposition to the Maloney amendment shouldn’t surprise anyone. These are the same folks who spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to defeat marriage equality in the courts. They’ve consistently blocked votes for other bills to protect LGBT Americans.

They even fought against provisions banning discrimination against or expanding services to victims of domestic violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity.What is surprising, though, are the lengths to which Republican leaders will go to undermine the voices of their own members by rigging the system.

House Republicans are in the majority, entitling them to run the House by their rules. But when the majority bends those rules to manipulate a vote, that is a serious threat to our democracy. And when it’s done in service of discrimination, it is even more dangerous – and counter to Speaker Ryan’s statement that “[The Republican] party does not prey on people’s prejudices.”

One of the central themes of our American story is that equality should prevail. The American people recognize that it is a false choice to suggest that we must discriminate against one group to protect another. Instead, our constituents want those who serve in Congress to work together to make sure all of us are safe, free, and equal.

While some may stand in the way – rigging votes and bending the rules – they will never succeed in derailing the progress of achieving civil rights and equality for all Americans.