Republicans block gay rights amendment days after Orlando killings

'As an LGBT American I’m at a loss. Our community suffers tremendous loss, now Republican lawmakers refuse to even allow a vote'

Katie Forster
Friday 17 June 2016 13:45 BST
The LGBT community was targeted in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando that resulted in 49 deaths
The LGBT community was targeted in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando that resulted in 49 deaths (Reuters)

Republican leaders in the US have blocked a vote on a measure to protect LGBT workers from discrimination – just days after 49 people were killed in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, a member of the US House of Representatives, had proposed an amendment to a defence spending bill to prevent federal contractors from discriminating on grounds of sexuality.

But despite a number of high-profile Republicans expressing outrage and sadness after the attack on the Pulse nightclub early last Sunday, the party moved to stop a vote on the amendment.

“As an LGBT American I’m at a loss. Our community suffers tremendous loss, now [Republican] lawmakers refuse to even allow a vote,” Mr Maloney wrote on Twitter.

Mr Maloney is openly gay and represents the 18th district of New York in the northern suburbs of New York City.

“This is about basic civil rights,” he said in a statement.

“My amendment is simple, it says that no Department of Defense dollars can go to federal contractors who contravene President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order, which extended basic workplace protections to LGBT Americans.”

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The 2014 order prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to previously existing measures banning discrimination by sex and national origin.

More than 300 people were at a Latin music event at Pulse nightclub when Omar Mateen opened fire, killing 49 people died and leaving 53 injured.

The so-called Islamic State has since claimed responsibility for the attack, which is the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

After the attack, Republican politician Mitt Romney offered a “special prayer for the LGBT community that was the focus of this attack,” he said in a tweet.

And Florida Senator and former Republican Presidential nomination hopeful Marco Rubio expressed outrage at the targeting of LGBT people by terrorist groups in an interview with The Advocate.

"I don't need investigators to tell me the gay community was targeted in this attack," Mr Rubio said.

Referring to Isis, he said: "We are dealing with some evil, nasty human beings who are motivated by an ideology of hatred that needs to be defeated".

Mr Maloney told US political news site The Hill a decision to reaffirm President Obama’s order in law would have been “a very positive step” to take after the “horrific” events in Orlando.

“Hate has no place in our flags, in our workplace, or in our country. And it should have no place in federal law,” he said.

This is not the first time Mr Maloney has attempted to add a clause protecting LGBT workers’ rights to a US government spending bill.

Last month, he proposed the same amendment to a Department of Veterans Affairs bill, which went through to a vote but was narrowly rejected.

According to Politico, Democrats from the House of Representatives chanted “shame” after Republican leaders barred the amendment by just one vote.

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