Tech Companies Say Defense Bill Provision Is Indefensible

TechNet, a consortium of tech companies, has called on congressional leadership to ax a section of a Defense Department reauthorization bill (H.R. 4909—National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017) that they say would legally sanction discrimination against LGBT Americans.

Some Republicans have included a provision that would exempt religious organizations receiving government contracts, subcontracts, purchase orders or grants from gender discrimination protections.

In a letter to House and Senate Armed Services leadership, TechNet—whose members range from Comcast and WGBH Boston to Apple, Microsoft and Google—made their position clear.

“The technology industry is the nation’s most innovative sector precisely because it values and embraces a talented and diverse workforce," said TechNet president Linda Moore. "Unfortunately, Section 1094 undermines these values by placing prejudice and fear above inclusion and diversity, which is bad for our employees and bad for business.”

“To ensure that our nation’s economy remains robust and innovative, we must support the best and brightest people. 

While Section 1094 might intend to promote religious freedom and liberty, in reality it sanctions discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, which has no place in our country.”

TechNet says the provision, if it remains in the bill, would nullify the President's executive order prohibiting gender or sexual orientation bias in federal contracting. 

The letter was sent to the members of a joint House-Senate conference of the Armed Services Committees working on the bill, as well as the chairs and ranking members of the committees.

The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill, which must be reconciled into one bill for final passage.

"LGBT Tech supports TechNet in the request to remove any language in the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," said Chris Wood, executive director of the LGBT Tech Partnership. "While freedom of religious expression is a bedrock of our values in the Untied States, too often, especially recently, it has been used as a cover for sanctioning discrimination. As we witnessed in Indiana, and other state, these efforts are often supported by anti-LGBT groups and result from significant antiLGBT animus. As written, section 1094 of H.R. 4909 opens the door to discrimination, reinforcing a divide with fear and prejudice instead of inclusion and diversity.

"The technology industry has continued to grow and flourish because it values and embraces new ideas and thoughts from a talented and diverse workforce - including those who might identify as LGBTQ. We implore the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Committees on Armed Services to remove Section 1094 from the final National Defense Authorization Act."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.