The US House of Representatives voted down legislation that would have protected the rights of homosexual and transsexual government contractors after a number of Republicans switched their initial positions at the last minute to vote along party lines.
On Thursday, House Republicans voted down an amendment to a veterans and military construction spending bill that would have removed language allowing government contractors to discriminate against LGBT individuals if working with them goes against their religious beliefs, Reuters reported.
The amendment throwing out the “religious freedom” defense for LGBT discrimination, which had been introduced by Representative Sean Maloney (D-New York), “initially had enough support to pass the House of Representatives, but there was a shift after House Republicans voted to extend the time allowed for the vote.
The amendment was ultimately defeated by a vote of 213 to 212. It was backed by 183 Democrats and 29 Republicans, but all 213 votes against the measure came from House Republicans, the NY Post reported.
Democrats drew attention to the vote by chanting “shame, shame, shame,” at Republicans. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) called house Republicans out on their maneuver, saying in a speech, “We had 217 people for non-discrimination right up until the last moment.”
Maloney released a statement blaming Republicans for “literally snatched discrimination from the jaws of equality.”
Representative Steve Russell (R-Oklahoma) had reportedly loudly declared that they “need two more votes.”
The Chicago Tribune reported that the Republican leadership was marching up and down the GOP side of the aisle to rally votes against the amendment.
Democrats have since publicized the names of the Republicans who flip-flopped on the amendment: Representatives Darrell Issa (California), Jeff Denham (California), David Valadao (California), Mimi Walters (California), Greg Walden (Oregon), Bruce Poliquin (Maine) and David Young (Iowa).
Although none have yet commented on the reason for their switch, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said the risk of compromising the entire construction bill was too great.
“Our veterans and troops were prioritized over a political messaging amendment that could have jeopardized the final passage of the appropriations bill,” AshLee Strong said in a statement.