Since George W. Bush became president, HRC has been a vigilant
watchdog to see how the new administration will handle issues of concern to
the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. The current battle
over President Bush’s faith-based initiative – including the Salvation Army
– is a critical test and sadly appears to reveal the administration’s true
We were stunned when we learned the administration and the Salvation Army
were using our lives – and the lives of our families – as bargaining chips
in a secret backroom deal. And we are gravely disappointed that President
Bush and Vice President Cheney sanctioned discrimination against GLBT
Americans. In a vote orchestrated by the GOP leadership in the House of
Representatives, they pitted important faith-based services against
important civil liberties. Their actions were unnecessary, divisive and
created conflict where there could have easily been consensus. On this
issue, we sought statesmanship and got brinkmanship. In short, we got
The White House-backed Community Solutions Act H.R. 7 offered by Reps. J.C.
Watts, R-Okla., and Tony Hall, D-Ohio passed July 19 in the House. The bill
would override state and local civil rights laws by allowing religious
organizations to discriminate in employment decisions and in the provision
of services. The measure would effectively allow our tax dollars to be used
to discriminate against us in places where state and local laws prohibit
discrimination against GLBT Americans. If it becomes law, this bill would
create a situation where many GLBT Americans would be publicly subsidizing
their own discrimination.
The Human Rights Campaign recognizes and supports the critical work
performed by the many faith-based organizations in our nation. We support
the principle of religious liberty. But the bottom line is our country
should not funnel tax money – that all of us pay – to groups that actively
discriminate. Religious freedom and freedom from discrimination must
harmoniously coexist and thrive together in a democratic society. And when
this legislation reflects these principles, it will find our support and the
support of the majority of Americans.
In letters, phone calls, appeals to the grassroots and countless hours of
lobbying, HRC, coalition partners and fair-minded members of Congress gave
the administration and the House Republican leadership every opportunity to
fix this bill. On Tuesday, Rep. Mark Foley, a moderate Florida Republican,
and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., both prepared amendments to H.R. 7 to fix
the bill. Both were rejected by the leadership.
When the bill reached the House floor July 18, it became crystal clear that
we had succeeded in lining up enough votes to send it back to the Judiciary
Committee with instructions to remove the offending language. It was then
that the administration and the House Republican leadership temporarily
pulled the bill in order to engage in a ferocious – and ultimately
effort to twist the arms of some two dozen moderate Republicans to oppose
any effort to change the bill.
The hypocrisy of the administration and the House leadership on this issue
is astounding. We are struck by the incongruous position of “states rights”
conservatives who have long trumpeted local control, only to run roughshod
over state and local civil rights laws in order to ram through this
discriminatory initiative. Their mantra of state and local control on
issues ranging from education to the environment is thrown out the window
when it comes to GLBT Americans. Moreover, it is clear the administration is
attempting to accomplish through legislation what they were unable to
accomplish through a regulatory deal with the Salvation Army.
We believe the action on July 19 was a hollow victory for the administration
and the House GOP leadership. This battle now moves to the Senate. By
ignoring pleas to fix the bill’s shortcomings, the administration has made
passage in the Senate demonstrably more difficult for itself. But we need
each and every one of you to keep this challenge alive.
Because what happens in Washington does matter, we are calling on every GLBT
American and those who care about us to challenge the White House to support
a Senate version of this bill that does not discriminate against GLBT
Americans. Call President Bush at 202-456-1414 and tell him: “It is wrong to
use federal funding – including my tax dollars – to support programs that
exempt religious organizations from civil rights laws.”
And consider this: Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including GLBT
Americans, received their notice of a tax refund on July 19. Think about
reinvesting that refund in the battle for GLBT equality. As for the team at
HRC, we will continue to do the hard daily work and not let up for a moment
until this legislation is cured of what ails it. Strong grassroots pressure
from around the nation, combined with strategic advocacy here in Washington
D.C., is the formula for success. And none of it happens without you.
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