Sometimes, certain Republicans don’t get the memo.
So it happened Thursday on Capitol Hill when Democrats sought to add an amendment barring federal contractors from getting government work if they discriminate against gay, bisexual or transgender people.
Initially, several Republicans voted with Democrats to add the amendment to a military construction and veterans affairs appropriations bill. But realizing that if the anti-discrimination language had been included, other Republicans would have opposed the appropriations bill, Republican leaders scrambled.
According to press accounts, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield leaned on Republicans to flip their votes. And some Californians agreed, including Reps. Jeff Denham of Turlock, David Valadao of Hanford, Darrell Issa of San Diego County and Mimi Walters of Orange County.
Democrats reacted by chanting the word, “shame.”
Clearly, the California Republicans should’ve known better than to vote against the amendment. The ham-handed handling of the episode is an embarrassment for members and an insult to their constituents in the Golden State, where gay and transgender people long have had legal protections.
But in several Republican-controlled states, gay and transgender people, frankly, have more pressing things to worry about than the political hijinks that play out in Washington, D.C. In too many parts of the country, people must worry about being denied basic amenities and services just for being who they are.
For example, a new so-called religious freedom law in Mississippi shields businesses and church groups from punishment if they deny wedding planning and adoption services to gay and transgender people when it’s based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
A law in Tennessee allows therapists to deny treatment. And North Carolina is locked in litigation with the federal government over its HB 2, a law that requires transgender people to use public restrooms that match their gender assigned at birth, not their gender identity.
Less talked about is how the same law supersedes local nondiscrimination ordinances, tying the hands of cities like Charlotte that want ordinances of their own to protect gay and transgender residents.
Some states still allow people to be fired or denied housing just for being gay or transgender. So while what happened on the House floor is a shame, how much of a shame is all a matter of perspective.