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House changes course, backs LGBT rights for federal contractors

Posted at 9:08 AM, May 26, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — After party leaders let Republican lawmaker vote as they wished, the House reversed course and approved a measure aimed at upholding an executive order that bars discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors.

More than 40 Republicans helped Democrats power the gay rights measure through late Wednesday, despite the opposition of GOP conservatives who dominate the House.

Conservatives did prevail in a separate vote designed to make sure federal dollars are not taken away from North Carolina over its bathroom law for transgender people.

The 223-195 vote reversed last week's on the gay rights measure. At that time, GOP leaders twisted arms to defeat the legislation, causing several supporters to switch their vote. Democrats protested loudly.

An openly gay lawmaker, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., make a second effort, adding the proposal to an Energy Department funding bill.

This time, GOP leaders did not try to stop colleagues from voting as they wanted. About a dozen Republicans, including several from California, dropped their opposition. Maloney's amendment made it through fairly easily.

It would prohibit agencies funded by the bill to award taxpayer dollars to federal contractors that violate President Barack Obama's executive order barring discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"It says you do not take taxpayer dollars and fire people just for being gay," Maloney said.

Maloney said last week's vote "snatched discrimination from the jaws of equality."

Earlier, the House voted 227-192 to block several federal agencies from retaliating against North Carolina over its law requiring transgender people to use the bathroom of their original sex.

That amendment, by Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., came in response to warnings from the Obama administration that it may take away federal money from North Carolina in response to the state law that blocks certain protections for gay people.

"The president and his emissaries have stated ... that funds should not be dispensed to North Carolina until North Carolina is coerced into complying with the legal beliefs of the President, and his political views," Pittenger said. "This is an egregious abuse of executive power."

The North Carolina law was passed after the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing transgender people to use restrooms of their chosen gender identity. The state law went further to take away federal protections for gays, putting the state at risk of losing a variety of federal funds.

Maloney's proposal had appeared on track to pass last week, peaking at 217-206 as an amendment to a veterans' spending bill.

But GOP leaders prevailed on seven Republicans to switch their votes, including California GOP Reps. Jeff Denham, Darrell Issa, Mimi Walters and David Valadao. Reps. David Young, R-Iowa, and Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, also switched positions. Each of them changed back on Wednesday night, joined by several other Republicans who opposed Maloney's plan last week.