WASHINGTON — Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives walked out of a policy meeting on Thursday after one of their colleagues read a Bibles verse and scolded them over their vote in favor of an appropriations amendment pertaining to homosexuality.
As previously reported, Rep. Sean Maloney, D-NY, who is openly homosexual and the co-chair of the House “LGBT Equality Caucus,” proposed an amendment last week that would ban entities from receiving government contracts if they are believed to have policies in place deemed discriminatory of homosexuals.
The bill was presented to counter the passage of another amendment by Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., that applied the religious exemption in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to federal contractors.
Legal groups such as First Liberty expressed support for the measure, stating that Russell’s amendment “creates an equal playing field for military religious vendors, ensuring military chaplains remain free to choose vendors who align with the teachings of their denomination.”
At first it seemed that Maloney’s amendment might pass, with 217 votes in favor of the measure, but according to reports, House Republicans extended the voting time by several minutes and encouraged their colleagues to change their minds.
Reps. Darrell Issa, David Valadao, Jeff Denham, Mimi Walters—all of California—and Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, Rep. David Yong of Iowa and Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine all changed their vote at the last minute, which ended in the defeat of Maloney’s measure—by a single vote.
The amendment was again introduced on Wednesday as Maloney sought to attach it to a separate energy appropriations bill, but the bill failed largely due to opposition to the proposal.
On Thursday, Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., scolded those Republicans who voted for the amendment. According to Politico, Allen opened the weekly policy meeting with a prayer that included the matter of homosexuality and read a Scripture, while telling those gathered that if they supported the amendment, they might be violating their faith.
Some Republicans, in becoming angry about the matter, walked out.
“A good number of members were furious,” one lawmaker, who asked to remain anonymous, told Politico. “There was some Scripture that was read and the like. … Nothing good was going to happen to those that supported [the amendment]. A good number of members were furious.”
“It was [expletive] ridiculous,” another said.
Some said that they only supported the amendment with a stipulation attached, and others said that they voted for the bill because they thought the amendment would never survive and would eventually be stripped out.
“[T]he difference on this vote was it wasn’t about substance as much as it was about principle,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., told Politico. “When you’re talking about principle—and this was a principle vote, about a lot of people’s faith and the way they believe—as a deputy whip, it’s difficult for me to persuade somebody, and nor would I try to persuade somebody, when they’re making a principle vote.”
It is not known which Scripture Allen read to those gathered and there are not yet any direct quotes from the meeting.