Congressional Committee Votes On DC’s ‘Non-Discrimination’ Law
For the first time in 23 years, a congressional committee voted to overturn a law passed in the nation’s capital.
The law would prevent employers in D.C. from discriminating against employees and potential employees based on their reproductive health decisions, including abortions or the use of birth control.
In January, the D.C. Council passed the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014, a bill that could force employers in the district to hire individuals who advocate for abortion and could require those employers, even those who advocate pro-life causes, to cover elective abortions in their healthcare plans.
Tuesday night, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed a resolution disapproving the law, with those members who introduced the disapproval measure calling it anti-religious freedom.
“This resolution is about protecting Americans’ sacred right to exercise their freedom of conscience,” Republican Rep. Bill Flores said in a statement. “The District of Columbia’s law not only ignores the Supreme Court’s clear ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it violates the religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution.”
Flores was referring to the Hobby Lobby decision, which ruled that family-owned businesses don’t need to offer their employees contraceptive coverage under Obamacare if in doing so it would conflict with the business owner’s religious beliefs.
D.C. Delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, said in a statement the congressmen looking to block the legislation were misinformed about the intentions of the bill.
“D.C.’s bill in no respect infringes the philosophical or political beliefs or practices of the employer,” she said. “Employers can still ask candidates if they agree to implement the policies and mission of the organization. But employers cannot hire and fire employees based on private, personal heath choices that are unrelated to employees’ duties and responsibilities.”
The disapproval resolution passed the committee vote along strict party lines, with a 20-16 vote, though it is unlikely to actually block the law from taking effect.
For the disapproval resolution to succeed the measure needs to pass a full vote within the House and the Senate, and President Obama would need to sign it into law. And all of this needs to happen within the next two weeks.
That’s because in order for D.C. Council legislation to become law it is required to be sent before both houses of Congress for 30 legislative days before taking effect.
The bill was transmitted to House Speaker John Boehner in March, and the deadline for congress to take action before it becomes law is May 2.
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