During a heated House Appropriations subcommittee meeting characterized by strong disagreements, House Republicans made a controversial decision on Tuesday. They voted to eliminate funding for three LGBTQ community centers, leading to a tense and emotionally charged debate.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) amended the annual funding bill for the Housing and Urban Development and Departments of Transportation. The amendment sought to cut funding by $3.62 million for LGBTQ community centers in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, citing concerns about what he called “problematic” spending. The amendment passed in a 32-26 vote, with party lines dividing the decision.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), one of the 12 openly LGBTQ members of Congress, strongly opposed the proposal. He criticized the amendment during the bill’s markup, condemning the removal of earmarks specifically because they were intended for the LGBTQ+ community. He shared an emotional experience of being physically assaulted and threatened earlier in his career due to his sexuality.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) came to the defense of Cole’s amendment during the reconvened meeting. He claimed that the LGBTQ centers supported communism, drag shows, and the administration of hormone replacement therapy to young people, using these claims as a basis for the amendment.
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), the subcommittee ranking member, later attempted to reintroduce the three LGBTQ community center projects into the bill through an amendment. However, his proposal was rejected in a 27-30 vote.
Throughout the meeting, tensions remained high, leading to multiple recesses when Republicans requested specific comments from Rep. Pocan and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to be struck from the record. Wasserman Schultz had referred to the amendment as “bigoted” and suggested that “the Republican Party doesn’t like gay people.”
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) expressed his outrage in a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday regarding the events that took place during the House Appropriations subcommittee meeting. Rep. Boyle had initially requested $1.8 million in funding for the William Way LGBT Center in Philadelphia. He described that day’s proceedings as “one of the most obvious and disgusting examples of bigotry that I’ve seen in my career and life.”
The situation sparked strong reactions from lawmakers and the public, reflecting the ongoing divide over LGBTQ rights and funding for community centers in the United States.