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Stein Club won’t endorse Bowser in mayor’s race

Gay Democratic group instead announces support for the ‘ticket’

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Angela Peoples, gay news, Washington Blade
Angela Peoples, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

‘It is important for Stein Club … to do what we can to increase our ranks and turn out our community to win Democratic victories,’ said Stein Club President Angela Peoples.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, has decided not to schedule a vote from its members to formally endorse Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser.

In an action that has puzzled some of the city’s LGBT Democrats, the club announced in a press release on May 12 that it is supporting the “Democratic ticket” in the Nov. 4 general election in which Bowser and six Democratic City Council candidates will appear on the ballot. The press release doesn’t mention Bowser or the Council candidates by name.

Other Democratic candidates running that the club is supporting are D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and shadow Senate and House nominees Paul Strauss and Franklin Garcia.

“The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club is proud to support a Democratic ticket of experienced leaders and new voices ready to move our party and our city forward,” the press release states.

“As the D.C. LGBT community grows it is important for Stein Club and our members to do what we can to increase our ranks and turn out our community to win Democratic victories,” the press release quotes the club’s president, Angela Peoples, as saying.

Peoples and the club’s Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs Martin Garcia told members attending the club’s regular monthly meeting on May 12 that a formal endorsement vote was unnecessary because it was “presumed” and expected that a Democratic club would support all Democratic nominees in a city election, according to members who attended the meeting.

Gay Democratic activist and Stein Club member Lane Hudson, who’s backing gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) in the mayor’s race, introduced a motion at the meeting calling for the club to withhold any support for Bowser and other candidates until at least September, when the board of elections certifies all candidates for the ballot.

Hudson’s motion was defeated by a wide margin, a development considered to be a vote of confidence in the officers’ proposals for backing Bowser and the other Democratic candidates.

But at least two club members who spoke on condition that they not be identified said they believe the club’s officers chose not to schedule an endorsement vote out of fear that Bowser would not win the required 60 percent majority to secure the endorsement.

According to the two club members and several other members who spoke to the Blade, an unknown but potentially significant number of Stein Club members are supporting Catania over Bowser in the November election. Although the club’s bylaws don’t allow the club to endorse a non-Democrat in a race in which a Democrat is on the ballot, Catania supporters would have the option of voting for “no endorsement” in a club endorsement election.

If enough Catania supporters voted for “no endorsement,” several club members said, they could block Bowser from receiving the 60 percent super majority required under the club’s bylaws for an endorsement. Such a development would be highly embarrassing for the club, the members told the Blade, and this is most likely the reason that the officers have decided not to hold an endorsement vote.

Peoples disputes that claim, saying the officers were following a club precedent established in recent years in which the club doesn’t schedule a membership vote on endorsements in a general election for Democratic candidates that have not been endorsed in the primary.

“There was no intention on my part to prevent an up or down vote on an endorsement for fear that one candidate or another may not get an endorsement or any Democratic candidate might not get the endorsement,” Peoples said.

“I simply would not jeopardize the opportunity for the club to vote simply because I was afraid of the outcome,” she said.

One possible consequence of not formally endorsing Bowser and the three Democratic Council candidates that didn’t win the club’s endorsement in the primary is that the club may not be allowed to make a campaign contribution to those candidates under the club’s bylaws.

“The vote to make a financial contribution to an endorsed candidate’s campaign must be voted as a separate question from the vote to endorse,” the bylaws state on the issue of campaign contributions.

Peoples said she isn’t sure if that provision actually bans the club from making contributions to Bowser and the non-endorsed Council candidates. But she said a separate section of the bylaws allows the club to take out “newspaper” ads in support of non-endorsed candidates. Peoples said the officers plan to submit a proposal to the members at the June meeting to purchase one or more media ads on behalf of Bowser and the other non-endorsed candidates. She said the members will likely vote on whether to approve the proposal.

The club’s officers talked to former Stein officers, including former president Jeffrey Richardson, on the issue of whether an endorsement vote was necessary for the club to support candidates in a general election, Peoples said. She said the consensus among former officers was that a clear “precedent” exists for not taking a formal endorsement vote in a general election for Democratic nominees not endorsed in the primary.

Peoples noted that the club’s press release focuses mostly on the club’s plans for increasing the turnout of the LGBT vote in the general election following a disappointingly low overall voter turnout for the April 1 primary.

At least one former club president, Kurt Vorndran, disputes Peoples’ assessment that a longstanding precedent exists for not voting to endorse candidates in the general election. According to Vorndran, in past years the club has almost always voted to endorse Democratic nominees that the club didn’t endorse in the primary at the first regularly scheduled club meeting following the primary.

“There has always been an affirmative vote and it’s usually done with all of the fanfare of the approval of the minutes,” he said.

Vorndran called the club’s decision not to vote to endorse Bowser a “mistake,” saying he believes Bowser supporters have enough support among club members to secure the endorsement for her.

“I think whatever plans are being developed may be very well intentioned,” he said. “But I think the way the public will perceive it is that the Stein Club, a Democratic organization, is not coming out 100 percent for the Democratic nominee and it will be perceived as a statement of a lack of confidence in her,” he said.

“And I don’t think that’s justified. Muriel Bowser has been a great friend of our community,” he said.

Gay Democratic activist Paul Kuntzler, a founder of the Stein Club who is backing Catania, said Vorndran’s account of the club’s practices of voting to endorse Democratic nominees in a general election is correct. However, Kuntzler said the current situation is unprecedented because Catania has emerged as one of the strongest non-Democratic contenders ever to run for mayor in a D.C. general election.

“We have never had a division like this in the LGBT community in a general election,” Kuntzler told the Blade.

Catania, who holds one of two at-large Council seats that are reserved under the City Charter for a non-majority party candidate, has received strong support from Democratic voters, including LGBT Democrats, in his past Council races. His supporters predict his long record as a reform politician will prompt large numbers of Democrats to vote for him for mayor.

In the case of Bowser, Stein members were divided in the primary between Bowser and her primary opponents, including Mayor Vincent Gray and Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large). Businessman Andy Shallal also garnered support among some of the club’s members during the primary campaign.

At a club endorsement forum in March, Gray came in first but fell short of obtaining the required 60 percent threshold, resulting in the club not endorsing anyone in the Democratic mayoral primary.

A similar no-endorsement outcome emerged in the at-large City Council race and the Council races in Wards 1 and 6.

Bowser beat Gray in the primary by a wide margin and emerged as the winner in most voter precincts with high concentrations of LGBT residents.

Incumbent Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) won the primary as did Ward 1 challenger Brianne Nadeau, who defeated gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). Ward 6 contender Charles Allen also won the nomination in his race for the seat being vacated by Wells, who gave up the seat to run for mayor.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and incumbent Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) won the Stein Club’s endorsement prior to the primary, which the three easily won against token opposition. The three are longtime strong supporters of the LGBT community.

Peoples told the Blade that similar to Bowser, the Stein Club will be supporting Bonds, Nadeau and Allen in the general election without formally endorsing them through a vote of the membership. All three have expressed strong support for LGBT rights, with Bonds having voted in support of LGBT-related legislation during her tenure on the Council.

Bonds also serves as chair of the D.C. Democratic Party for which the Stein Club is a recognized entity with two seats on the Democratic State Committee reserved for the club. Thus its decision not to formally endorse Bonds will likely raise eyebrows among some party officials.

Gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein and transgender activist Jeri Hughes, who supported Gray in the primary, are among Stein Club members who say the club should strongly support Bowser in the general election. Hughes said the club should formally endorse Bowser, even though she personally is undecided over whether to vote for Bowser or Catania.

Gay Democratic activist Everett Hamilton, who serves as a campaign consultant for Bowser, said he isn’t sure why the Stein Club isn’t officially endorsing Bowser. But he said he’s pleased that the club has pledged to support Bowser and looks forward to working with its members on Bowser’s behalf.

“The Democratic nominee is always happy to receive support from Democrats,” he said.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Lane Hudson

    May 22, 2014 at 11:42 am

    The current position of the Stein Club in the mayor’s race is “No Endorsement” and that won’t change until a vote is taken with the membership. Since the bylaws don’t prescribe a process for changing from “No Endorsement” to an endorsement, it would require a 2/3 vote to suspend the rules. Any statement by Angela or other officers that the Stein Club “supports” Bowser is incorrect. The Club’s official position is one of non-support.

    Also, since Angela was unclear on the advertising piece, I’m pasting below the relevant part of the bylaws that address that question:

    In races where the Club’s position is “No Endorsement,” a motion to consider indicating support for more than one candidate in advertisements paid for by the Club, may be approved with a two-thirds vote of those present and voting.

  2. Dwayne Bensing

    May 22, 2014 at 11:54 am

    This article confuses Stein Bylaws and misrepresents the club’s current position in the Mayoral race. The Bylaws clearly state that “If, after a second ballot, a candidate has not received a supermajority vote, the Club’s official position in that race will be ‘No Endorsement.'” As the article mentions, that vote took place, no candidate received the requisite 60%, and therefore the Club’s official position for mayor MUST BE, according to the Bylaws (not based on ad hoc decision by the Board), “No Endorsement.” What was discussed at the meeting was how the club would support all Democratic candidates in the General Election (in which the Club ONLY supports Democrats). The Bylaws state “In races where the Club’s position is ‘No Endorsement,’ a motion to consider indicating support for more than one candidate in advertisements paid for by the Club, may be approved with a two-thirds vote of those present and voting.” Therefore, in the Mayoral race, where there is “No Endorsement,” the Club must vote, by a two-thirds majority of those present, to “support” Bowser. Whether Bowser (and other non-endorsed Democratic candidates) will garner that two-thirds vote will be decided at the next meeting by members attending that meeting. Until then, there is no news.

  3. Dwayne J. Bensing

    May 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    This article confuses Stein Bylaws and misrepresents the Club’s current position in the Mayoral race. The Bylaws clearly state that “If, after a second ballot, a candidate has not received a supermajority vote, the Club’s official position in that race will be ‘No Endorsement.’” As the article mentions, that vote took place, no candidate received the requisite 60%, and therefore the Club’s official position for mayor MUST BE, according to the Bylaws (not based on ad hoc decision by the Board), “No Endorsement.” What was discussed at the meeting was how the Club would support all Democratic candidates in the General Election (in which the Club ONLY supports Democrats if a Democrat is in the race). The Bylaws state “In races where the Club’s position is ‘No Endorsement,’ a motion to consider indicating support for more than one candidate in advertisements paid for by the Club, may be approved with a two-thirds vote of those present and voting.” Therefore, in the Mayoral race, where there is “No Endorsement,” the Club must vote, by a two-thirds majority of those present, to “support” Bowser. Whether Bowser (and other non-endorsed Democratic candidates) will garner that two-thirds vote will be decided at the next meeting by members attending that meeting. Until then, there is no news.

  4. Andy Marcus

    May 22, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    David clearly is the better qualfied candidate, and his bonne fides on ALL issues that matter to the LGBT community and to Democrats are unimpeachable. Plus, he knows what he is doing. The District just cannot afford somebody lacking in experience, such as Ms. Bowser. I don't even really see how this is a close call.

  5. Peter Rosenstein

    May 22, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Muriel Bowser is the Democratic candidate and clearly the LGBT Democratic club will support the Democratic candidate. The vote to not endorse a particular candidate occurred only for the primary and that vote is now irrelevant.

    Some members of the club can try to play games and interpret the bylaws in different ways but if the bylaws aren’t clear then they need to be changed to state clearly that unless the Democratic candidate is not fully supportive of LGBT human rights then they are the candidate endorsed by the club in the general election.

    Muriel Bowser has strongly supported LGBT rights and has restated that position recently. She has always voted that way during her time on the Council. She is as competent and able to be Mayor as David Catania any day. People confuse the role of a legislator with the role of Mayor. Passing legislation is good it doesn’t necessarily make for a good administrator. I believe strongly that Muriel Bowser will make the better administrator and is better able to bring people together. She will be a Mayor that will make all the people of the District proud.

    • Lane Hudson

      May 23, 2014 at 11:21 am

      Peter, there is no provision of the Stein Club’s bylaws that make support for a Democratic candidate automatic. In the past, the Democratic nominee has been endorsed by the Club by a cursory vote following the Primary. That has not been done in this race. It is against the rules for the Club leadership to say the Club supports Bowser when an endorsement vote has not been taken. That is plain and simple. The fact that they will not seek an endorsement vote speaks volumes.

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    June 19, 2014 at 5:39 am

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Top 10 Blade news stories by web traffic

COVID breakthroughs, Equality Act, and anti-trans attacks

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Elliot Page created excitement by posting his first photo in swim trunks back in May.

Each year our staff gathers in late December to review the highest trafficked stories of the year and there’s more than a little bit of competitive spirit as we review the results. Here are the top 10 stories by web traffic at  HYPERLINK “http://washingtonblade.com”washingtonblade.com for 2021.

#10: Mark Glaze, gun reform advocate, dies at 51

The sad, tragic story of Glaze’s death captivated readers in November. 

#9: COVID breakthrough infections strike summer tourists visiting Provincetown

This one went viral in July after a COVID outbreak was blamed on gay tourists.

#8: Thank you, Kordell Stewart, for thoughtful response to ‘the rumor’

This opinion piece thanked the former NFL quarterback for writing a personal essay addressing gay rumors. 

#7: Elliot Page tweets; trans bb’s first swim trunks #transjoy #transisbeautiful

The actor created excitement by posting his first photo in swim trunks back in May.

#6: Romney declares opposition to LGBTQ Equality Act

Mitt Romney disappointed activists with his announcement; the Equality Act passed the House but never saw a vote in the Senate.

#5: White House warns state legislatures that passing anti-trans bills is illegal

The year 2021 saw a disturbing trend of GOP-led legislatures attacking trans people.

#4: Lincoln Project’s avowed ignorance of Weaver texts undercut by leaked communications

The Lincoln Project’s leaders, amid a scandal of co-founder John Weaver soliciting sexual favors from young men, have asserted they were unaware of his indiscretions until the Blade obtained electronic communications that called that claim into question.

#3: FOX 5’s McCoy suspended over offensive Tweet

Blake McCoy tweeted that obese people shouldn’t get priority for the COVID vaccine. 

#2: Transgender USAF veteran trapped in Taliban takeover of Kabul

Among the Americans trapped in the suburban areas of Kabul under Taliban control was a transgender government contractor for the U.S. State Department and former U.S. Air Force Sergeant. She was later safely evacuated.

#1: Amid coup chaos, Trump quietly erases LGBTQ protections in adoption, health services

And our most popular story of 2021 was about the Trump administration nixing regulations barring federal grantees in the Department of Health & Human Services from discriminating against LGBTQ people, including in adoption services.

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CDC still falling short on LGBTQ data collection for COVID patients: expert

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COVID-19 vaccine, gay news, Washington Blade
The CDC is still not issuing guidance to states on LGBTQ data collection among COVID patients.

Despite requests since the start of the COVID pandemic for the U.S. government to enhance data collection for patients who are LGBTQ, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is still falling short on issuing nationwide guidance to states on the issue, a leading expert health on the issue told the Blade.

With a renewed focus on COVID infections reaching new heights just before the start of the holidays amid the emergence of Omicron, the absence of any LGBTQ data collection — now across both the Trump and Biden administrations — remains a sore point for health experts who say that information could be used for public outreach.

Sean Cahill, director of Health Policy Research at the Boston-based Fenway Institute, said Wednesday major federal entities and hospitals have been collecting data on whether patients identify as LGBTQ for years — such as the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey, which has been collecting sexual orientation data since the 1990s — but the CDC hasn’t duplicated that effort for COVID even though the pandemic has been underway for two years.

“It’s not like this is a new idea,” Cahill said. “But for some reason, the pandemic hit, and all of a sudden, we realize how little systematic data we were collecting in our health system. And it’s a real problem because we’re two years into the pandemic almost, and we still don’t know how it’s affecting this vulnerable population that experiences health disparities in other areas.”

The Blade was among the first outlets to report on the lack of efforts by the states to collect data on whether a COVID patient identifies as LGBTQ, reporting in April 2020 on the absence of data even in places with influential LGBTQ communities. The CDC hasn’t responded to the Blade’s requests for nearly two years on why it doesn’t instruct states to collect this data, nor did it respond this week to a request for comment on this article.

Cahill, who has published articles in the American Journal of Public Health on the importance of LGBTQ data collection and reporting in COVID-19 testing, care, and vaccination — said he’s been making the case to the CDC to issue guidance to states on whether COVID patients identify as LGBTQ since June 2020.

Among those efforts, he said, were to include two comments he delivered to the Biden COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force in spring 2021, a letter a coalition of groups sent to the Association of State & Territorial Health Officers asking for states to collect and report SOGI in COVID in December 2020 as well as letters to HHS leadership and congressional leadership in spring and summer 2020 asking for them to take steps to encourage or require SOGI data collection in COVID.

Asked what CDC officials had to say in response when he brought this issue to their attention, Cahill said, “They listen, but they don’t really tell me anything.”

“We’ve been making that case, and to date, as of December 22, 2021, they have not issued guidance, they have not changed the case report form. I hope that they’re in the process of doing that, and maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised in January, and they’ll come up with something…I really hope that’s true, but right now they’re not doing anything to promote SOGI data collection and reporting in surveillance data.”

Cahill, in an email to the Blade after the initial publication of this article, clarified CDC has indicated guidance on LGBTQ data collection for COVID patients may come in the near future.

“HHS leaders told us this fall that CDC is working on an initiative to expand SOGI data collection,” Cahill said. “We are hopeful that we will see guidance early in 2022. Key people at CDC, including Director Walensky, understand the importance of SOGI data collection given their long history of working on HIV prevention.”

In other issues related to LGBTQ data collection, there has been a history of states resisting federal mandates. The Trump administration, for example, rescinded guidance calling on states to collect information on whether foster youth identified as LGBTQ after complaints from states on the Obama-era process, much to the consternation of LGBTQ advocates who said the data was helpful.

The White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force has at least recognized the potential for enhancing LGBTQ data collection efforts. Last month, it published an implementation plan, calling for “an equity-centered approach to data collection, including sufficient funding to collect data for groups that are often left out of data collection (e.g….LGBTQIA+ people).”

The plan also calls for “fund[ing] activities to improve data collection…including tracking COVID-19 related outcomes for people of color and other underserved populations,” and specifically calls for the collection of LGBTQ data.

The importance of collecting LGBTQ data, Cahill said, is based on its potential use in public outreach, including efforts to recognize disparities in health population and to create messaging for outreach, including for populations that may be reluctant to take the vaccine.

“If we see a disparity, we can say: Why is that?” Cahill said. “We could do focus groups of the population — try to understand and then what kind of messages would reassure you and make you feel comfortable getting a vaccine, and we could push those messages out through public education campaigns led by state local health departments led by the federal government.”

The LGBTQ data, Cahill said, could be broken down further to determine if racial and ethnic disparities exist within the LGBTQ population, or whether LGBTQ people are likely to suffer from the disease in certain regions, such as the South.

“We have data showing that lesbian or bisexual women, and transgender people are less likely to be in preventive regular routine care for their health,” Cahill said. “And so if that’s true, there’s a good chance that they’re less likely to know where to get a vaccine, to have a medical professional they trust to talk to about it today.”

Among the leaders who are supportive, Cahill said, is Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health and the first openly transgender person confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a presidential appointment. Cahill said he raised the issue with her along with other officials at the Department of Health & Human Services three times in the last year.

In her previous role as Pennsylvania secretary of health, Levine led the way and made her state the first in the nation to set up an LGBTQ data collection system for COVID patients.

“So she definitely gets it, and I know she’s supportive of it, but we really need the CDC to act,” Cahill said.

Although the federal government has remained intransigent in taking action, Cahill said the situation has improved among states and counted five states — California, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Nevada and Oregon — in addition to D.C. as among those that have elected to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity of COVID patients.

However, Cahill said even those data collection efforts are falling short because those jurisdictions have merely been public about collecting the data, but haven’t reported back anything yet.

“Only California has reported data publicly, and the data that they’re reporting is really just the completeness of the data,” Cahill said. “They’re not reporting the data itself…And they’re also just asking people who tests positive. So, if somebody says positive COVID in California, a contact tracer follows up with that individual and asks them a battery of questions, and among the questions that are asked are SOGI questions.”

As a result of these efforts, Cahill said, California has data on the LGBTQ status of COVID patients, but the data is overwhelmingly more complete for the gender identity of these patients rather than their sexual orientation. As of May 2021, California reported that they had sexual orientation data for 9.5 percent of individuals who had died from COVID and 16 percent of people who tested positive, but for gender identity, the data were 99.5 percent.

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Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise

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Despite having President Biden in the White House and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, efforts to update federal civil rights laws to strengthen the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people by passing the Equality Act are all but dead as opponents of the measure have contorted it beyond recognition.

Political willpower is lacking to find a compromise that would be acceptable to enough Republican senators to end a filibuster on the bill — a tall order in any event — nor is there the willpower to force a vote on the Equality Act as opponents stoke fears about transgender kids in sports and not even unanimity in the Democratic caucus in favor of the bill is present, stakeholders who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity said.

In fact, there are no imminent plans to hold a vote on the legislation even though Pride month is days away, which would be an opportune time for Congress to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBTQ community by holding a vote on the legislation.

If the Equality Act were to come up for a Senate vote in the next month, it would not have the support to pass. Continued assurances that bipartisan talks are continuing on the legislation have yielded no evidence of additional support, let alone the 10 Republicans needed to end a filibuster.

“I haven’t really heard an update either way, which is usually not good,” one Democratic insider said. “My understanding is that our side was entrenched in a no-compromise mindset and with [Sen. Joe] Manchin saying he didn’t like the bill, it doomed it this Congress. And the bullying of hundreds of trans athletes derailed our message and our arguments of why it was broadly needed.”

The only thing keeping the final nail from being hammered into the Equality Act’s coffin is the unwillingness of its supporters to admit defeat. Other stakeholders who spoke to the Blade continued to assert bipartisan talks are ongoing, strongly pushing back on any conclusion the legislation is dead.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is “alive and well,” citing widespread public support he said includes “the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents and a growing number of communities across the country engaging and mobilizing every day in support of the legislation.”

“They understand the urgent need to pass this bill and stand up for LGBTQ people across our country,” David added. “As we engage with elected officials, we have confidence that Congress will listen to the voices of their constituents and continue fighting for the Equality Act through the lengthy legislative process.  We will also continue our unprecedented campaign to grow the already-high public support for a popular bill that will save lives and make our country fairer and more equal for all. We will not stop until the Equality Act is passed.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chief sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, also signaled through a spokesperson work continues on the legislation, refusing to give up on expectations the legislation would soon become law.

“Sen. Merkley and his staff are in active discussions with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to get this done,” McLennan said. “We definitely see it as a key priority that we expect to become law.”

A spokesperson Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had promised to force a vote on the Equality Act in the Senate on the day the U.S. House approved it earlier this year, pointed to a March 25 “Dear Colleague” letter in which he identified the Equality Act as one of several bills he’d bring up for a vote.

Despite any assurances, the hold up on the bill is apparent. Although the U.S. House approved the legislation earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t even reported out the bill yet to the floor in the aftermath of the first-ever Senate hearing on the bill in March. A Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic aide, however, disputed that inaction as evidence the Equality Act is dead in its tracks: “Bipartisan efforts on a path forward are ongoing.”

Democrats are quick to blame Republicans for inaction on the Equality Act, but with Manchin withholding his support for the legislation they can’t even count on the entirety of their caucus to vote “yes” if it came to the floor. Progressives continue to advocate an end to the filibuster to advance legislation Biden has promised as part of his agenda, but even if they were to overcome headwinds and dismantle the institution needing 60 votes to advance legislation, the Equality Act would likely not have majority support to win approval in the Senate with a 50-50 party split.

The office of Manchin, who has previously said he couldn’t support the Equality Act over concerns about public schools having to implement the transgender protections applying to sports and bathrooms, hasn’t responded to multiple requests this year from the Blade on the legislation and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who declined to co-sponsor the Equality Act this year after having signed onto the legislation in the previous Congress, insisted through a spokesperson talks are still happening across the aisle despite the appearances the legislation is dead.

“There continues to be bipartisan support for passing a law that protects the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Annie Clark, a Collins spokesperson. “The Equality Act was a starting point for negotiations, and in its current form, it cannot pass. That’s why there are ongoing discussions among senators and stakeholders about a path forward.”

Let’s face it: Anti-LGBTQ forces have railroaded the debate by making the Equality Act about an end to women’s sports by allowing transgender athletes and danger to women in sex-segregated places like bathrooms and prisons. That doesn’t even get into resolving the issue on drawing the line between civil rights for LGBTQ people and religious freedom, which continues to be litigated in the courts as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected any day now to issue a ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia to determine if foster care agencies can reject same-sex couples over religious objections.

For transgender Americans, who continue to report discrimination and violence at high rates, the absence of the Equality Act may be most keenly felt.

Mara Keisling, outgoing executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, disputed any notion the Equality Act is dead and insisted the legislation is “very much alive.”

“We remain optimistic despite misinformation from the opposition,” Keisling said. “NCTE and our movement partners are still working fruitfully on the Equality Act with senators. In fact, we are gaining momentum with all the field organizing we’re doing, like phone banking constituents to call their senators. Legislating takes time. Nothing ever gets through Congress quickly. We expect to see a vote during this Congress, and we are hopeful we can win.”

But one Democratic source said calls to members of Congress against the Equality Act, apparently coordinated by groups like the Heritage Foundation, have has outnumbered calls in favor of it by a substantial margin, with a particular emphasis on Manchin.

No stories are present in the media about same-sex couples being kicked out of a restaurant for holding hands or transgender people for using the restroom consistent with their gender identity, which would be perfectly legal in 25 states thanks to the patchwork of civil rights laws throughout the United States and inadequate protections under federal law.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, which has bolstered the Republican-led Fairness for All Act as an alternative to the Equality Act, said he continues to believe the votes are present for a compromise form of the bill.

“I know for a fact there is a supermajority level of support in the Senate for a version of the Equality Act that is fully protective of both LGBTQ civil rights and religious freedom,” Deaton said. “There is interest on both sides of the aisle in getting something done this Congress.”

Deaton, however, didn’t respond to a follow-up inquiry on what evidence exists of agreeing on this compromise.

Biden has already missed the goal he campaigned on in the 2020 election to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. Although Biden renewed his call to pass the legislation in his speech to Congress last month, as things stand now that appears to be a goal he won’t realize for the remainder of this Congress.

Nor has the Biden administration made the Equality Act an issue for top officials within the administration as it pushes for an infrastructure package as a top priority. One Democratic insider said Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director for the White House, delegated work on the Equality Act to a deputy as opposed to handling it herself.

To be sure, Biden has demonstrated support for the LGBTQ community through executive action at an unprecedented rate, signing an executive order on day one ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the fullest extent possible and dismantling former President Trump’s transgender military ban. Biden also made historic LGBTQ appointments with the confirmation of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health.

A White House spokesperson insisted Biden’s team across the board remains committed to the Equality Act, pointing to his remarks to Congress.

“President Biden has urged Congress to get the Equality Act to his desk so he can sign it into law and provide long overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans, and he remains committed to seeing this legislation passed as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The White House and its entire legislative team remains in ongoing and close coordination with organizations, leaders, members of Congress, including the Equality Caucus, and staff to ensure we are working across the aisle to push the Equality Act forward.”

But at least in the near-term, that progress will fall short of fulfilling the promise of updating federal civil rights law with the Equality Act, which will mean LGBTQ people won’t be able to rely on those protections when faced with discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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