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  • Writer's pictureZachary Blair

NDAA: A Pernicious Tool for LGBT Violence

When Republicans are not slipping legislation into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that legalizes, expands, or protects discrimination against LGBT people, Democrats use the annual defense bill as a strategy to pass legislation intended to "protect" LGBT people by tying it to military spending and expansion. This “strange coupling of civil rights and national security,” first occurred with the marriage of the NDAA of 2010 and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act - as chronicled by Chandan Reddy in his book Freedom With Violence. Since then, the NDAA has been a tool for politicians to expand the military at the cost of LGBT lives. Whether it's the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell or allowing federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT people, there are numerous ways in which these policies (re)produce violence in the U.S. and abroad. In my forthcoming article, "The Pulse Nightclub Shooting: Connecting Militarism, Neoliberalism, and Multiculturalism to Understand Violence" in North American Dialogue, I briefly point out this relationship in an effort to contextualize the Pulse shooting, which occurred only a couple weeks after the House approved the Russell Amendment.

Today, it was reported that President Obama will veto the NDAA due to the Russel Amendment, making it his 13th veto if he does and the second time he has vetoed the NDAA. This veto will not only solidify the NDAA as a tool to fight LGBT discrimination, but it will also officialize a new mutual dependency between military expansion and the expansion of LGBT rights. With Obama in office, it might no longer be that LGBT rights and "protections" depend on military expansion, but also that military expansion depends on the expansion of LGBT rights and "protections."

Update (11/30/2016): It was reported on November 29, 2016 that the Russell Amendment was removed from the NDAA. Before this is lauded as a victory for LGBT rights, it is worth noting that the reason for taking the amendment out of the 2017 NDAA was apparently because... "Subsequent to the election, new paths have opened up to address those issues. It’s still a very important issue for members and they intend to pursue those other paths.” In other words, with a Trump presidency and Republicans running both houses of Congress, efforts to pass "religious freedom" legislation will most likely be more fruitful. Military spending NOW. Efforts to pass laws to legalize discrimination against LGBT people LATER.



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