Anti-LGBTQ Russell Amendment Removed from Defense Legislation

In the middle of the post-election turmoil, and amid the rightful anger that we all have over who Trump is choosing for his cabinet, the American community has a small bit of good news to celebrate.

The Russell Amendment, an anti-LGBTQ provision to the National Defense Authorization Act, has been removed from the legislation. A senior aide to the armed services committee made the announcement Tuesday.

This is an important victory for this community that should hopefully provide us with some relief. If this amendment had passed along with the rest of the National Defense Authorization Act, the law would have allowed employers to discriminate against LGBTQ people, on the basis of religious freedom. Back in May, Representative Stephen Russell (R-OK) proposed the amendment. He proposed it in response to President Obama’s 2014 executive order to make discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender illegal.

While this is certainly good news, it is yet another reminder that the battle between LGBTQ rights and religious freedom is far from over. Religious freedom seemed to be the ultimate drive behind this provision. One of the most peculiar arguments for this amendment to pass was that it would highly benefit military chaplains. Military chaplains are individuals who give active religious support to military members and their families by offering various ministry services, such as counseling and rites .

The argument for the provision was that the Russell Amendment would end the conflict that chaplains face when they are forced to make decisions that may contradict the directives of their religious endorsers. An example of such a decision would be a chaplain purchasing supplies from vendors who do not agree with the chaplain’s endorser’s views on marriage.

It is likely that Congress will propose something similar to the Russell Amendment in the near future, but for now, we can enjoy a moment of peace.

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