Over 340,000 Signatures Delivered to Congress Rejecting Discrimination in Defense Bill

November 15, 2016 1:15 pm

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WASHINGTON — More than a dozen national organizations delivered over 342,000 petition signatures to Congress today in opposition to an amendment in the annual defense bill that would fund discrimination. The petitions were delivered to the Washington offices of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Known as the Russell Amendment, the measure in the National Defense Authorization Act would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination towards women, single mothers, LGBT people, and religious minorities in religiously-affiliated organizations including hospitals and universities. The petitions are part of a coordinated advocacy effort from CREDO Action, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Military Partner Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, 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: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity.

The organizations issued the following joint statement on today’s petition delivery:

“The hundreds of thousands who signed the petition to #RejectRussell are sending a clear message: We won’t stand for taxpayer-funded discrimination. The Russell Amendment is one of the most significant threats to LGBT people, women, religious minorities, and others we have seen in Congress in years. Congress needs to act now to ensure that all of us are protected from discrimination. Freedom, equality and fairness are at stake.”

The Russell Amendment could allow for an individual:

  • To be fired for marrying a same-sex partner — or denied benefits afforded to other married couples
  • To be fired for being transgender
  • To be fired for being a woman taking birth control
  • To be fired for being a single mother or
  • To be refused a job interview if they don’t practice the “right” religion

The Russell Amendment was adopted in the dead of night — over bipartisan opposition — without a hearing and with almost no debate. The House Rules Committee then prevented the full chamber from being able to vote on a bipartisan amendment to remove the discriminatory provision from the defense bill.

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