Discrimination Has a Name – the Russell Amendment
Imagine a day where 1 out of every 5 of the working people you know could be discriminated against because their boss has a problem with their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or reproductive health care decisions. Now imagine that discrimination is funded by taxpayer dollars. Well, that day might not be all that far away. A few members of Congress snuck a provision into a “must-pass” funding bill that would do just that. But we won’t let them get away with it.
During a late night consideration of the bill earlier this year, policy makers chose to make discrimination against women and LGBTQ+ people a priority by slipping a provision known as the “Russell Amendment” into the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual funding bill that pays for our country’s military programs. The Russell Amendment would allow unprecedented, taxpayer-funded discrimination by allowing federal programs, religiously affiliated federal contractors, or recipients of federal grants to discriminate against employees based upon the employer’s religious beliefs.
Impact on Real Life in Real Terms:
Twenty-eight million people are part of the federal workforce, and the Russell Amendment could put many of them at risk of discrimination based on their bosses’ religious beliefs. 28 MILLION. The Amendment could also reach those who work for entities receiving federal grant funds, which includes a variety of companies, institutions, and organizations.
Under this discriminatory provision, entities holding certain religious beliefs or tenants could claim a right to:
- Refuse to hire an employee because she used birth control or had an abortion.
- Refuse to hire a pregnant woman because she used in vitro fertilization to become pregnant or because she is unmarried.
- Refuse to hire a transgender individual.
- Refuse to offer parental leave to an employee who is a lesbian when her same-sex spouse gives birth to their child.
These examples are not just theoretical. Women across the country have been fired because of their reproductive health decisions. In fact, employers have even threatened to fire employees if they took advantage of their health plan’s coverage of birth control.
The Russell Amendment opens the door for more employers to claim that their religious beliefs trump an individual’s right to non-discrimination. The government shouldn’t be in the business of funding any kind of discrimination, and no one should be disqualified from a job because she accessed reproductive health care, because of her sexual orientation, or because she doesn’t have the same religious beliefs as her employer.
Tell Congress “You know Nothing.”
It’s time to let Congress know that they can’t get away with funding discrimination by calling it religious liberty. Some members of Congress seem to think that we will miss this because this provision was slipped into the bill in the middle of the night.
But we are watching. Think of us as the Night’s Watch—this is what we are here to do and we can’t be distracted. We see you and your taxpayer-funded discrimination, and we aren’t going to let you get away with it. Now it’s up to all of you to say the same thing, so if you’ve ever wanted your Jon Snow moment – call, e-mail, tweet, do what you need to do to tell your members of Congress you’re not down with taxpayer-funded discrimination, and they shouldn’t be either.