In Congress, The Fight Against Discrimination Is Now

Many people around the country are focused on the next president and Congress and preparing to fight back against the dangerous policy proposals we expect to see in the months ahead.

We have our work cut out for us, but can’t overlook the fact that the current Congress still has work to do. Lawmakers returned to Washington yesterday and, in the remaining days of 2016, will be considering some dangerous policy proposals of their own. In other words, the fight is now.

One of the first things on the agenda: the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It contains a provision called the Russell Amendment, which would require that all federal agencies allow religiously affiliated contractors and grantees to discriminate in hiring with taxpayer funds

That is why, today, we joined with a dozen national organizations to deliver over 340,000 petition signatures to Congress in opposition to the Russell Amendment.

The petition urges U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) – the four lawmakers working to hash out a final version of the defense bill – to strip out the language.

The Russell Amendment violates the longstanding principle that the government should not fund discrimination. It would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination towards women, LGBT people, and religious minorities in religiously affiliated organizations including hospitals and universities. But, no one should be disqualified from a taxpayer-funded job because he or she is the “wrong” religion or because he or she does not follow the same religious tenets as the employer.

The provision is also sweeping. It doesn’t just apply to defense programs, but to every federal contract and grant, across all federal agencies. And, it would jeopardize vital, existing workplace nondiscrimination protections, including those that cover 28 million people – a fifth of the country’s workforce.

The Russell Amendment is one of the most significant threats to the LGBT community, women, and religious liberty that we have seen in Congress in years.

That is why we are proud to have worked on this petition with CREDO Action, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Military Partners Association, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, In Our Own Voice, Lambda Legal, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and URGE.

We’re also proud of the more than 340,000 supporters who took action and signed the petition and fought back against discrimination.

We will continue to work to strip the Russell Amendment from the NDAA. At AU, the fight against bills that misuse "religious freedom" to discriminate doesn't end.

For more information on this important fight, see AU’s Protect Thy Neighbor site