While the Oklahoma budget crisis and the last-minute legislative shenanigans by conservatives dominated the news recently here, U.S. Rep. Steve Russell was stirring up his own pot of right-wing extremism in Washington, D.C.
— LGBT Equality Caucus (@LGBTEqCaucus) May 25, 2016
Russell, a Republican who represents Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district, is trying to get an amendment inserted into the defense bill that would allow contractors to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people because of religious beliefs. His efforts have generated much controversy and acrimony.
The amendment, itself, seems innocuous. It states the federal government when doing business with religious organizations must comply with sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the American Disabilities Act of 1990. The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on religion, and the American Disabilities Act allows religious organizations to hire employees based on shared religious beliefs.
In other words, Russell is trying sneak around the 2014 executive order issued by President Barack Obama, which does the opposite of the amendment. The executive order prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against the LGBT community.
According to a published report, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat from New York, had this to say about Russell’s amendment: “This is about bigotry, plain and simple.” Other Democrats and organizations also oppose the amendment.
A slew of anti-LGBT bills were introduced and failed in the Oklahoma legislative session this year, and one last-minute bill that would have denied the right of a students to use the restroom of the gender with which they identified also failed at the state Capitol.
Now Russell wants to bring the conservative Oklahoma standard of discrimination and hate to Washington to further embarrass the state.
"Negative legislation just hurts the state," Oklahoma faces PR nightmare after legislature repeatedly makes natio… https://t.co/2o6DBIRb3Q
— KFOR (@kfor) May 31, 2016
There is really no nuance to this issue, as Maloney states. Right-wing religious zealots want to make everyone in this country live under their narrow worldview, and they will attempt to do so in deceptive ways. They use their anti-LGBT agenda as a rallying cry for the intolerant right-wing religious folks because their own religious beliefs need scapegoats and mythical “enemies” in order to flourish. The common right-wing deceit, one Russell knows well as a former state legislator, is to paint the entire hateful anti-LGBT agenda as advocacy of religious freedom when, in fact, the agenda openly denies equality to groups of people. No one’s religious freedom has ever been threatened by the LGBT community.
As I mentioned for years now on this blog and elsewhere, the fight for equality goes on. Russell and people like him might try to erect barricades, and they might even enjoy a temporary and minor success once in a while, but the basic concept of equality will win in the end.