House Republicans at a conference meeting heard a Bible verse that calls for death for homosexuals shortly before the chamber voted on the morning of May 26 to reject a spending bill that included an amendment barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Whether the freshman member who gave the prayer intended to condemn members of the LGBT community has left Republicans and Democrats deeply divided. What's certain is that the Energy-Water appropriations bill that came to the floor later in the morning was defeated on a resounding 112-305 vote, with a majority of the GOP caucus in opposition.
Georgia Rep. Rick W. Allen led the opening prayer by reading from Romans 1:18-32, and Revelations 22:18-19. An aide to Allen told CQ that Allen did not mention the upcoming vote on the Energy-Water spending bill or an amendment that would reinforce a presidential directive prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees.
Gay rights advocates called on top Republicans to condemn the "vile and dangerous remarks" and censure Allen.
"At a time when LGBT people face staggering rates of discrimination, harassment and violence, Representative Allen's comments spread hate that does real harm," Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President said in a statement.
Passages in the verses refer to homosexuality and the penalty for homosexual behavior. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet,” reads Romans 1:27, which Allen read, according to his office.
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them,” read lines 28-32, which Allen also recited, according to his office.
Democrats also helped sink the $37.4 billion Energy-Water bill, opposed to provisions that would have barred the purchase of heavy water from Iran and prohibited the federal government from reducing funding to the state of North Carolina for energy and water projects.
Republican objections to the bill, which was drafted by their members and approved in a Republican-controlled committee by a voice vote, included the level of spending, as well as the inclusion of the Maloney nondiscrimination amendment. A #StopMaloney campaign on Twitter by conservative groups urged the defeat of the bill.
The 130 Republicans voting against the bill was significantly higher than opposition last year to any of the six appropriations bills that passed the House floor. Last year, seven Republicans voted against the fiscal 2016 Energy-Water spending bill, four voted against the Military Construction-VA bill, five voted against the Defense spending bill, five voted against the Legislative Branch bill, 10 voted against the Commerce-Justice-Science bill and 31 voted against the Transportation-HUD bill.
Maloney, who heard about the Republican conference prayer from another representative, said the prayer and the vote should tell Americans about the values Republicans hold.
“To suggest that protecting people from being fired because of who they are means eternal damnation, then I think they are starting to show their true colors,” Maloney said.
“I think we are living in a new world of Donald Trump and a Republican Party that is driving itself further and further away from common sense and further toward a radical approach to government,” he said.
Maloney’s identical amendment to last week’s fiscal 2017 Military Construction-VA appropriations bill caused a scene on the House floor when the two-minute clock on the roll call vote struck zero. The provision could have passed with 217 votes, but Republicans held the vote open for about eight minutes to allow members to change their votes. Republicans denied accusations of arm-twisting. The amendment, which would have barred discrimination in federal contracting on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, ultimately failed by a vote of 212-213.
[ Moral Victory on the Confederate Flag, Painful Defeat on LGBT Protection ] “Everything we’ve done over the last week was a reaction to a Republican effort to write anti-gay discrimination into the defense [authorization] bill,” Maloney said, referring to a religious freedom provision to the defense authorization bill, which could affect executive orders from President Barack Obama that prevent LGBT discrimination. “All we are saying was the executive orders that created workplace fairness should not be rolled back.” When Maloney offered his amendment to the Energy-Water spending bill on Wednesday night, it was approved in a 223-195 vote . Republicans added “perfecting language” to the amendment with exemptions under the First and 14th amendments, as well as Article I of the Constitution.
“A majority of the House agreed with me last night, including 43 Republicans, so in some ways that battle has been fought and won by the forces for equality,” Maloney said.
[ In Reversal, House Passes LGBT Anti-Discrimination Measure ] The debate on the Military Construction-VA and the Energy-Water appropriations bills has caused Republican leadership to reconsider allowing amendments to be offered on the floor, without first being printed in the Congressional Record.
Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan , R-Wis., said after the vote that he plans to "sit down with our members and have a family discussion about how best to proceed, so that the appropriations process cannot be sabotaged and derailed." Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.