Dems upset by ‘inappropriate’ LGBT hearing one month after Orlando shooting

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Gay rights advocates and Democrats blasted Republicans for holding a hearing to discuss what critics say is anti-LGBT legislation one month after the June 12 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

“It is difficult to imagine a more inappropriate day to hold this hearing,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Tuesday at the hearing. “Even if you truly believe that being gay is morally wrong, or that people should be allowed to discriminate against gay people, why in the world would you choose today of all days to hold a hearing on this discriminatory legislation?” 

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is weighing politically charged legislation in response to the Supreme Court’s decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

The Republican-backed First Amendment Defense Act would prohibit the federal government from retaliating against a person or business that “acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction” opposing same-sex couples.

“The pendulum of tolerance must swing both ways,” said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), the sponsor of the legislation who testified at the hearing.

Critics say the legislation gives business owners a license to discriminate against gay people. “What is the difference between discriminating against someone who is black and someone who is gay?” Cummings asked Labrador.

“For centuries in our nation, black people and white people could not get married,” Cummings said. “Those in power justified this doctrine on religious grounds, and they codified it in our laws.”

“Now, we have a similar situation with same-sex couples,” he added.

Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is gay, returned to Capitol Hill to testify against the legislation.

Republicans scheduled the hearing as the LGBT community continues to mourn the 49 people killed during the Orlando shooting.

Democrats and dozens of LGBT organizations had demanded Republicans postpone the hearing. 

“I do not believe Chairman [Jason Chaffetz] did this intentionally,” Cummings said. “He may not have even realized before this week that today is the one-month anniversary. But we asked repeatedly to cancel today’s hearing, or at least postpone it. And dozens of groups and other stakeholders made the same request in letter after letter after letter to the committee — all without success.”

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