Blumenthal: Russell Amendment Stripped from Final Defense Bill, But the Fight Against Discrimination is Not Over

Blumenthal led lawmakers demanding that a provision rolling back critical workplace protections be removed from final Defense Authorization bill

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Conference Committee for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), announced today that the Conference Committee Report does not include a dangerous provision included in the House-passed NDAA that would roll back critical workplace protections and enable taxpayer-funded discrimination. Blumenthal led the effort in the Senate to strip this provision – known as the Russell Amendment – from the final text of the NDAA.

“The Russell Amendment stood in direct contradiction to our core American values. Eliminating this dangerous provision from the final bill is a victory, but let us be clear: the fight against bigotry, intolerance, and discrimination does not end with the Russell Amendment. Our government should have no part in funding discrimination – not now, not tomorrow, and not next year. In the aftermath of this presidential election, we must be even more vigilant in our efforts to protect the fundamental right of all Americans to equal protection under the law,” Blumenthal said.

On the heels of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” and similar attacks on equality in Mississippi and North Carolina, the Russell Amendment is a sweeping provision that undermines protections that guard Americans against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religious identity, or reproductive and other healthcare decisions. Among other actions, under the Russell Amendment, religiously affiliated organizations that receive federal funds could claim a right to use those funds to:

  • Fire an employee who uses birth control or who is pregnant and unmarried;
  • Fire an employee who marries their same-sex partner; and
  • Refuse to interview someone because they follow a religious tradition different from that of their employer. 

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