House Republicans eliminate funding to LGBTQ community centers after tense hearing

House Republicans voted Tuesday to eliminate funding to three LGBTQ community centers during a contentious House Appropriations subcommittee meeting that one member characterized as “political theater.”

Tensions boiled over Tuesday after Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) introduced an amendment to the annual funding bill covering the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development to eliminate $3.62 million in funding for three LGBTQ community centers in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

The amendment, which Cole said Tuesday would crack down on “problematic” spending, also prohibits federal funds from being used to fly LGBTQ Pride flags outside government buildings.

It passed Tuesday in a 32-26 vote along party lines.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus and one of 12 openly LGBTQ members of Congress, called the proposal “an embarrassment.”

“This amendment brings this committee to a new low,” Pocan said Tuesday during a markup of the bill. “The fact that you would take away members’ earmarks simply because they refer to the LGBTQ+ community is insane.”

“If you were to take away earmarks because they went to the NAACP or the Urban League, you would rightfully so be called racist bigots,” Pocan said. “But when you do it to the LGBT community, it’s another frickin’ day in Congress.”

In an emotional moment, Pocan recalled being physically assaulted and threatened early in his career for being an openly gay man in politics. He accused Republicans of inciting similar violence against the community.

“When I wasn’t out yet, [I] left the gay bars and people followed me and beat me with a baseball bat until I was bloodied and unconscious and called me a f—–. This is what you guys do by introducing amendments like this,” he said.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, called Tuesday’s amendment “a disgrace” and compared working with some committee Republicans to “negotiating with terrorists.”

Tuesday’s proceedings were formally paused after Republicans asked for DeLauro’s “terrorist” comments to be struck from the markup record.

When the committee reconvened, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) defended Cole’s amendment by claiming the LGBTQ community centers in question have programs in place supporting communism, drag shows and the administration of hormone replacement therapy to young people.

“Appropriation also should be appropriate,” he said.

Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) later introduced an amendment to add the three projects back into the bill. It was rejected in a vote 27-30.

The committee went into recess twice more Tuesday when Republicans asked for comments from Pocan and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who called the amendment “bigoted” and said “the Republican Party doesn’t like gay people,” to be struck from the record.

In a video posted to Twitter Tuesday, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), who requested $1.8 million in funding for the William Way LGBT Center in Philadelphia, said Tuesday’s proceedings amounted to “one of the most obvious and disgusting examples of bigotry that I’ve seen in my career and in my life.”

Funding for two other LGBTQ centers – projects requested by Democratic Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) – were also cut by Tuesday’s amendment.

“This cruel and unjust decision is not rooted in any legitimacy, but instead in bigotry and hatred,” Houlahan wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “An overwhelming majority of Americans support LGBTQ+ rights. We are on the right side of history & we will hold those who wish to discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans accountable.”

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