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Thursday, April 16, 2015

NC Congressman Mark Meadows leads charge to legalize antigay discrimination in the District of Columbia.


Congressmember Vicki Hartzler, a Republican from Missouri, wants to re-legalize antigay discrimination in the nation's capitol. According to her official website,

Hartzler introduced the measure in response to the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA), which the D.C. City Council passed in December of last year and was signed into law by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on January.  The law would require religious schools to act against their beliefs on human sexuality.  “By passing this Act, the D.C. City Council has infringed on the fundamental right of religious freedom,” Hartzler said.   “No faith-based school should be forced to endorse, fund, or sponsor groups that do not share their beliefs.”
“Americans are protected by the Constitution from being forced by their government to violate their religious beliefs,” Hartzler added. “Forcing anyone, including religious schools, to go against their beliefs goes directly against our Constitution and shouldn’t be allowed.” (emphasis in the original)
The DC government saw the matter differently, noting that they were repealing a 1989 federal law allowing religious schools- like Georgetown University- to discriminate against gay student groups in the use of school facilities. The law was passed after a court struck down Congress' attempt to pass the freedom-to-discriminate law as part of a DC appropriations bill. What started it all was a federal court decision barring Georgetown from giving higher levels of student rights and facilities access to other, officially recognized student groups than unrecognized gay groups, while not requiring the school to officially recognize such groups. Hartzler's legislation, House Joint Resolution 44, seeks to repeal that one section of DC law, and so to restore legalized academic discrimination against gay students in religiously-affiliated schools.
Cosponsors are Congressman Joe Flores (R-TX), chair of the hard-right Republican Study Committee, and the prominent teabagger/2013 government shutdown leader, North Carolina congressmember Mark Meadows, who apparently hasn't got enough to do for his own constituents in his gerrymandered, 91% white district at the North Carolina-Tennessee border. Meadows has not posted any press releases on the bill on his office website.
Since the federal government pretty much is the DC economy, and members of Congress form a tiny super-electorate largely immune from the corporate and religious pressure brought to bear on state antigay "Pizza & Prayer" bills, Hartzler's bill represents one of the GOP's easier trophy hunts in its antigay campaign going into the 2016 elections.
In practice, however, the effort is widely considered pointless, except as a head fake in advance of a second front:
“Everyone knows they will not succeed in this process because President Obama is not going to sign these resolutions,” said Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is lobbying against the resolutions.
Thompson and other opponents of the disapproval resolutions have said supporters of the resolutions most likely are using them to draw attention to and support for their ultimate objective, which is to kill the bills by persuading Congress to attach an amendment to the D.C. appropriations bill blocking the city from implementing the two measures.
The latter approach has a better chance of succeeding, political observers have said, because Obama would be much less likely to veto the city’s appropriations bill. The appropriations or “budget” bill is needed to fund all of the city’s agencies and programs – even though most of the funds come from D.C. taxpayers.
LGBT advocates and D.C. government officials have disputed claims by opponents of the Human Rights Amendment Act that it would force religious schools such as Catholic University to endorse or fund LGBT student groups.
Supporters of the bill point to a 1987 D.C. Court of Appeals ruling that said the D.C. Human Rights Act’s provision banning discrimination based on sexual orientation could not force religious schools to officially recognize or fund LGBT student groups. The ruling held that religious schools would be required only to provide those groups with the same access to meeting space and other facilities that are provided to other student groups.
Supporters say the Human Rights Amendment Act would restore the D.C. Human Rights Act to its original wording from before Congress changed it. Supporters, including the director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights, Monica Palacios, have said the limitations placed by the 1987 Court of Appeals ruling would remain in place. Thus religious schools would not be forced to recognize or fund LGBT clubs.

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