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House Democrats Challenge GOP to Condemn LGBT Discrimination

Carson is pushing for an official House condemnation of his home state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats, sensing a growing political advantage over Republicans on LGBT issues, are pushing a resolution to express congressional condemnation of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

The action comes on the heels of, and in direct response to, the national uproar over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics say gives businesses permission to deny service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers. "In the wake of the backlash of Indiana's misguided law, it is clear that the vast majority of Americans oppose this type of discrimination," Rep. André Carson, an Indiana Democrat and lead sponsor of the resolution, said in a statement.  

More and more states are legalizing same-sex marriage and in 2013 the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. But Republicans are still reluctant to wade into the issue lest they alienate their socially conservative base.  

For House GOP leaders even a non-binding resolution, such as the one Carson and his colleagues are proposing, probably wouldn't be worth making members go on the record on LGBT rights in a presidential election cycle.  

But the Democratic lawmakers who outlined the effort in a conference call with reporters Monday morning signaled they wouldn't let GOP opposition go quietly into the night. It could set up a nasty fight among the ideological factions on Capitol Hill in the weeks ahead, especially as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments later this month on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.  

"When intolerance occurs anywhere, everyone has an obligation to take a stand," said Rep. Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee tasked with honing House Democrats' messaging over the next year and a half. "The United States Congress shouldn't get a waiver on this ... Congress needs to lead on this."  

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