Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Media Source: 
Sun Herald (MS)
Author: 
Paul Hampton

Congressman Steven Palazzo is in a bit of a dustup with the District of Columbia.

According to Palazzo's office, he introduced an amendment during Wednesday's full committee markup on the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill that would prevent funds from being used towards the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act in the district.  

DC Vote, a group trying to eliminate such congressional oversight in the only part of America without representation in Congress, isn't happy.

“Representative Palazzo has only introduced seven bills in this Congress this year that might be related to his district in Mississippi, yet he somehow found the time to offer an amendment that undermines democracy in the District of Columbia,” said DC Vote Executive Director Kimberly Perry in an email. “I’m sure his constituents are wondering why their representative believes carrying water for a national interest group is more important than addressing the needs of a district with an 11 percent unemployment rate. Over the next few days, we intend to let Rep. Palazzo’s constituents know how he spends his time on Capitol Hill.”

Palazzo cited the religious beliefs of some people in D.C. as the reason behind his action, which passed 28-22.

“This bill, deceivingly named the Reproductive Heath Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, takes steps to surpass the religious principles held by many of the people who live and work in the District of Columbia," he said in a release from his office.

"Under this misguided law’s extremely broad language, any employer or employment agency is prohibited from making a decision to employ an individual based on their personal feelings about birth control or abortion."

A section of the law, passed by the DC council last year, says:

"An employer or employment agency shall not discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of or on the basis of the individual's or a dependent's reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service, because of or on the basis of an employer's personal beliefs about such services." 

Palazzo said that could be a problem for Catholic schools.

“For example, a Catholic school could be required to hire a teacher that advocates for the use of abortion as a birth control option," he said. "While the First Amendment gives that teacher every legal right to share her opinions publicly, the same First Amendment protects religious institutions from being forced to hire someone who actively advocates against core principles of that organization.  

“Forcing a religious institution to make employment decisions that disregard their values and beliefs goes against the freedoms, liberties, and constitutional rights of our country. ”

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