Russell Amendment removed from NDAA after lawmakers received more than 342,000 petition signatures from AMPA and other national organizations

Today, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) military families, praised reports that an amendment was removed from the annual defense bill that could have funded anti-LGBT discrimination.

“Taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT people is wrong — plain and simple,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “The fact that the defense spending bill was being used in an attempt to fund discrimination against minorities is disturbing. Thousands of LGBT service members put their lives on the line for our nation, and they and their families should never face discrimination here at home simply because of who they are or whom they love. We are pleased that in the end, lawmakers removed the discriminatory measure and fairness and equality seem to have prevailed.”

Known as the Russell Amendment, the measure in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) could have allowed taxpayer-funded discrimination against women, single mothers, LGBT people, and religious minorities in religiously-affiliated organizations, including hospitals and universities.

As reported by the Washington Blade, “During a background briefing with reporters on Tuesday, an aide said the final version of the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization bill hammered out by House and Senate lawmakers in conference committee lacks the language Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) inserted in the House version of the bill.”

On November 15, AMPA joined more than a dozen national organizations in delivering more than 342,000 petition signatures to Congress in opposition to the amendment. 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.).

The petitions were part of a coordinated advocacy effort from the American Military Partner Association, American Civil Liberties UnionAmericans United for Separation of Church and State, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, and other national organizations.

The Russell Amendment could have allowed 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 previously 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.