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House backs order providing job protection for homosexuals

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives refused Aug. 5 to block President Clinton’s order extending job protection in the federal government to homosexuals.
Sixty-three Republicans joined with 188 Democrats in a 252-176 vote to reject a measure that would have banned funding to implement or administer the executive order.
The ground-breaking order, issued in late May, requires all federal agencies to add “sexual orientation” to the list of categories — such as race, gender and age — protected by executive order against discrimination in the federal civilian workforce. With Clinton as president the last five years, most federal agencies and departments already had instituted policies providing job protection for homosexuals.
The vote was a setback for religious conservatives and other public-policy organizations that reject homosexuality as a classification deserving civil rights protection.
Several conservative Republicans — including Reps. Bill McCollum of Florida and Christopher Cox and Dana Rohrabacher, both of California — voted against Hefley’s amendment.
Some expressed concern passage of the amendment could harm the GOP politically.
“I think it will hurt (Republicans in the fall election) if we get labeled people who want to persecute people like that,” Rohrabacher said, according to The Washington Times.
Ben Mitchell, consultant on biomedical and life issues for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “Congress failed to do the right thing, the moral thing, the ethical thing. Instead, it played politics and sadly lost the moral high ground.
“We can expect more of the same from this administration, and unless Congress recovers its moral backbone, it will be unlikely to be the moral example it needs to be. Perhaps voters on both sides of the aisle will be better able to do what needs to be done than Congress apparently has been,” said Mitchell, also an ethics professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
In a written statement, Clinton expressed gratitude for the House vote, saying it “reflected the values of our nation. The American people believe in fairness, not discrimination, and the Hefley amendment would have legitimized government-sponsored discrimination against its own citizens based on their sexual orientation.”
The president denied his order authorized “affirmative action or preferences or special rights for anyone.”
Rep. Joel Hefley, R.-Colo., chief sponsor of the proposal, disagreed, saying it authorized affirmative-action programs on the basis of “sexual orientation.” Clinton’s order amended one by President Nixon calling for the head of each federal department and agency to “establish and maintain an affirmative program of equal employment opportunity for all civilian” workers, Hefley said.
Congress needs to “stop this president, who is trying to legislate and govern by executive fiat,” Hefley said in remarks prepared for the House debate. “This is a flagrant misapplication of presidential power.”
Hefley offered the proposal as an amendment to the appropriations bill for the departments of Commerce, Justice and State. The spending bill gained passage in a 225-203 vote.
Only the week before, the House had passed in a 214-212 vote a measure blocking San Francisco from using federal funds to implement its policy of requiring businesses and charities having contracts with the city to provide benefits to homosexual and unmarried heterosexual couples.
In recent weeks, there have been news reports the GOP is in turmoil over how to handle the homosexuality issue, with some Republicans expressing concern after Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott told an interviewer homosexual behavior is sinful.
Clinton’s executive order further enhanced his status as the president who has done the most to advance homosexual rights. He has sought and received the support of homosexuals in both presidential election campaigns. Only days after taking office in 1993, he announced an attempt to overturn the ban on homosexuals in the military but was basically thwarted. He appointed a liaison to the homosexual community and named several open homosexuals to posts in his administration. Last November, he became the first president to speak at a homosexual rights event, when he addressed the national dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, the movement’s largest political organization. He has pushed for passage of the Employment Non-discrimination Act, legislation that would make discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” illegal in both the public and private workforce.
The president is a member of Immanuel Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in Little Rock, Ark. At its 1993 meeting, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution distancing itself from Clinton’s support of abortion and homosexual rights.