Congress Rejects Discrimination Against Gays in Historic Vote
Religious Right Dealt Stunning Rebuke By Conservative and Moderate Republicans -- Tables Turned On Recent Anti-Gay Political Drive
(WASHINGTON, DC) – After weeks of harsh, anti-gay public rhetoric from religious
right organizations and members of the GOP Congressional leadership, a
record 63 House Republicans fought back, voting along with Democrats to
overwhelmingly defeat an amendment by Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) which would
have rolled back all non-discrimination policies covering sexual
orientation in the federal government.
The 252-176 vote to defeat the Hefley Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill was a crushing defeat for Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) and religious right groups, who supported the amendment, and a victory for a coalition of conservative and moderate Republicans, along with Log Cabin Republicans and the Human Rights Campaign, who together led the drive to stop its passage.
"The message to the Republican leadership is clear -- stop the gay-bashing now and return to a positive, unifying agenda going in to this critical election," said Richard Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "These were Republicans from every political stripe saying to Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich that this attack on gays has gone too far."
The 63 Republicans voting against Hefley set a record for House Republicans on a gay rights issue, doubling the previous record. The last such gay-supportive vote was in the 104th Congress, where 29 Republicans voted against an amendment to repeal the D.C. domestic partnership law.
Leading speakers in the debate against the Hefley Amendment were Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Tom Bliley (R-VA), both of whom received 100% ratings from the American Conservative Union. Each decried discrimination against gays and lesbians, and disputed arguments from Hefley and others that federal non-discrimination policies which include sexual orientation amount to "special rights" and lead to affirmative action.
The attack on the Hefley Amendment was led for weeks by openly-gay Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), joined by Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA), Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA), Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD), who along with staffers from the Democratic leadership collaborated on lobbying members and developing the successful floor strategy that defeated the measure.
"We commend these 63 Republicans who stood up for the principle that all Americans should be judged on their merits, including gay and lesbian Americans," Tafel said.
"The real story in this vote is that a growing segment of the Republican Party is emerging," Tafel said. "They are no longer afraid to draw the line on bashing gays and they are putting the leadership on notice that it will not work. It's bad policy and it's bad politics. That's the message of this victory. While so many have reported on the anti-gay segment of the GOP, this vote shows there is a growing segment of the party that is inclusive and opposes anti-gay discrimination."
"This was an unprecedented effort of teamwork in the gay community, with every national gay organization working together in close coordination with key Hill staffers, both gay and straight, on both sides of the aisle," Tafel said. "This victory marks the maturing of the gay political movement, and the end of the old one-party strategy. The gay movement is becoming a strong, bi-partisan movement."
Log Cabin Republicans is the nation's largest gay and lesbian Republican organization, with 50+ chapters nationwide, a full-time Washington office and a federal political action committee.
REPUBLICANS VOTING NO ON THE HEFLEY AMENDMENT
REPUBLICANS NOT VOTING: Gingrich (GA), Barr (GA) Cunningham (CA), Goodling (PA)