Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

GOP cannot abide job protections for gay, lesbian Americans

In an embarrassment to Speaker Paul Ryan, conservative House Republicans succeeded in killing their own party's energy-and-water appropriations measure Thursday.

The reason?

The bill contained an amendment approved earlier on the House floor that would have barred federal contractors from discriminating against gay, lesbian and transgender Americans. Some 130 House Republicans decided that they could not bring themselves to vote in favor of legislation containing such job protections, thus dooming the GOP spending bill to failure. In the end, only 106 Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

One of the most prominent opponents of the measure was U.S. Rep. Rick Allen of Georgia's 12th Congressional District. According to both Politico and The Hill, the Augusta Republican opened the weekly policy meeting of the House Republican caucus by reading Bible verses condemning homosexuality, followed by a prayer suggesting that anyone who voted in favor of the spending bill was taking an anti-Christian, anti-Biblical stance.

The performance reportedly drove at least a few of Allen's fellow Republicans to walk out of the meeting in disgust. "A good number of members were furious," one GOP congressman told Politico." "I thought the comments were wildly out of bounds and especially inappropriate given that this was supposed to be a prayer," Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania told The Washington Post.

Nonetheless, at the end of the day, Allen and his anti-gay colleagues got their way. The bill was rejected on the House floor.

Georgia Republicans Austin Scott, Lynn Westmoreland, Doug Collins, Barry Loudermilk, Jody Hice and Tom Graves joined those voting against their own party's bill. (Georgia Democrats also voted no, in their case because their caucus opposes the overall bill.)

UPDATE from Roll Call:

The verses read by Allen condemning gays included a passage stating that "they which commit such things are worthy of death":

"Georgia Rep. Rick W. Allen led the opening prayer by reading from Romans 1:18-32, and Revelations 22:18-19. An aide to Allen told CQ that Allen did not mention the upcoming vote on the Energy-Water spending bill or an amendment it included from Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York that would prevent federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Passages in the verses refer to homosexuality and the penalty for homosexual behavior. “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet,” reads Romans 1:27, which Allen read, according to his office.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them,” read lines 28-32, which Allen also read, according to his office.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.