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Senate candidates in key races diverge on support for LGBT rights

Issue playing out differently ahead of mid-term elections

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Mark Warner, United States Senate, Democratic Party, Virginia, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade
Mary Landrieu, Louisiana, United States Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is one of three Democrats in the U.S. Senate who has not explicitly backed same-sex marriage. (Photo public domain)

Ahead of a mid-term election where wins in several close races could give Republicans control of the U.S. Senate, the issue of LGBT rights is playing out differently in contentious races depending on the state in play.

While many of the competitive races are seeing the more expected narrative of Democrats supporting LGBT rights as their Republican opponents shy away from them, in one state both candidates are trumpeting LGBT rights. But in the South neither Democrats and Republicans are making support for LGBT part of their campaigns.

The outlier Senate race in which both candidates are staking out claims as champions of LGBT rights is taking place in Oregon, where Republican candidate Monica Wehby recently made public a TV ad showcasing her support for marriage equality. She’s running to oust incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a longtime supporter of marriage equality known for championing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The unprecedented ad for a Republican statewide candidate features Ben West, one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit that just months earlier brought marriage equality to Oregon, who announces support for Wehby on behalf of himself and his spouse Paul Rummell.

“Marrying my husband was the happiest day of my life,” West says in the ad. “I was proud of Oregon and our country. But there’s a lot of work left to do. Whether it’s standing up for equality or for the unemployed or for the next generation, we need leaders who have the courage to do what’s right. That’s why I support Monica Wehby. I know she’ll fight for every Oregon family, including mine.”

Wehby had previously given nuanced answers before the Republican primary in response to questions on whether she backs gay nuptials.

In a March interview with KATU radio, Wehby referred to the matter as “a state issue,” but said the government “shouldn’t be telling you who you love, who you live with, who you care about.”

Shortly after news, the Merkley campaign shot back with its own ad, saying the remaining six plaintiffs in the Oregon marriage equality lawsuit — Bill Griesar, Bob Duehmig, Deanna Geiger, Janine Nelson, Christine Tanner, and Lisa Chickadonz — are backing Merkley and are questioning Wehby’s support for same-sex marriage.

“We were happy to see Monica Wehby’s advertisement; we only wish Wehby had joined our efforts under less politically motivated circumstances,” said the couples in a statement. “How is our community expected to trust Monica Wehby when she’s taken so many different positions on marriage equality since the start of her campaign?”

Meanwhile, in Senate races elsewhere in the country, a more expected distinction has been seen with Democrats backing gay rights and Republican candidate staying away from the issue.

That distinction is strongly exemplified in the race between Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Republican candidate Cory Gardener.

After Udall receiving the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign in June, his campaign issued a statement touting the support of the nation’s largest LGBT group and criticizing Gardener for his score of “0” on HRC’s most recent congressional scorecard. The statement compared Gardener to former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, the anti-gay lawmaker behind a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage throughout the country.

“Congressman Gardner’s antiquated views on LGBT Coloradans are ripped straight out of another generation,” said lesbian state Rep. Joann Ginal in the statement. “He voted to ban loving same-sex couples from adopting children, and voted to let businesses fire employees or refuse to serve customers all because they happen to be gay.”

Known for his support for marriage equality and efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Udall during his election year pushed the Obama administration to extend spousal benefits to gay veterans in non-marriage equality states and touted his co-sponsorship of the Social Security and Marriage Equality Act of 2014, which would ensure Social Security benefits flow to married same-sex couples in states that doesn’t their unions.

Meanwhile, in a state that until President Obama has been consistently Republican in every presidential election since 1964, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has touted his LGBT credentials as he faces a challenge from Republican candidate Ed Gillespie.

During a phone interview in June with the Washington Blade, Warner played up his support for marriage equality and predicted dire consequences for LGBT rights if Republicans took control of the Senate.

“I think there would be more challenges,” Warner said. “I think this an issue, especially like on marriage equality, where the public has moved much quicker than the elected officials, and, again, I wouldn’t see the same kind of forward progress if the Senate would flip.”

In contrast, Gillespie skirted the issue of LGBT rights in February when the Blade asked him during the Conservative Political Action Conference about Arizona’s controversial Senate Bill 1062  that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.

“I haven’t looked at that bill,” Gillespie said. “I’ve been very focused on the Senate race. I’m running for the United States Senate in Virginia, So, very focused on federal issues there, and I just don’t know enough about what was in that bill. I’m sorry.”

But at least in terms of LGBT rights, the draw of Democrats to LGBT rights seems to be more true in Colorado and Virginia than in other states, like New Hampshire or North Carolina.

In North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) is holding firm against a challenge from Republican candidate Thom Tillis, but hasn’t emphasized brought up marriage or relationship relationship in her campaign, even though she came out in favor of same-sex marriage last year.

By the same token, Tillis, who as speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives presided over passage of Amendment One, the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, hasn’t publicly campaigned in opposition to same-sex marriage.

Still, the Hagan campaign has taken Tillis to task in June for not supporting a state measure that would prohibit discrimination and harassment against LGBT students, blasting him in no fewer than two statements on her campaign website. One criticizes him for not more strongly speaking out a Republican lawmaker who referred to bestiality and pedophilia as sexual orientations; the other questioning whether he would oppose the Student Non-Discrimination Act, a federal measure to protect LGBT students.

“While Kay support efforts to end discrimination of any kind, Thom Tillis refuses to take a position on anti-discrimination effort on the floor of the House that he controls,” said Chris Hayden, a spokesperson for the Hagan campaign. “To use his own phrase, what’s ‘not helpful’ to kids facing discrimination is Thom Tillis’ silence. How long will North Carolinians have to wait to get a position from Thom Tillis?”

Likewise, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and her Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, are being relatively quiet about making LGBT rights a prominent part of their campaigns.

For Shaheen’s part, that silence stands in contrast to her past work. The first U.S. senator to call for inclusion of marriage equality in the Democratic platform, Shaheen introduced the Charlie Morgan Act, a measure to ensure the flow of spousal benefits to gay service members, and spoke on the Senate floor about lesbian guardsman Charlie Morgan upon her death.

Brown also something to trumpet in terms of his support for LGBT rights. As a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, Brown was among the eight Senate Republicans who voted for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

Still, Shaheen in February did draw attention to her support for LGBT rights when she filed as an amendment a measure along the lines of the Charlie Morgan Act to pending veterans legislation as means to ensure gay veterans could receive spousal benefits in states without marriage equality.

At yet another level, neither Democrats or Republicans are bringing LGBT rights to their forefront of their campaigns as they make their bids for Congress. That’s most evident in races in the South, such as Louisiana, Arkansas and Georgia.

In Louisiana, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is in a close race against Republican challenger Bill Cassidy, and in Arkansas, where Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is a few points behind in the polls compared to Republican challenger Tom Cotton, LGBT rights isn’t at the forefront on either side. Landrieu and Pryor — along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have the distinction of being among the three Democrats in the U.S. Senate who don’t support marriage equality.

The race in Georgia, where no incumbent is in the race and Democrat Michelle Nunn is running against Republican candidate David Perdue, is along the same lines. Nunn has said she believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be left up to the states, which in the case of Georgia means support for constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

In an op-ed for The Huffington Post, Atlanta-based family law attorney Jeff Cleghorn writes about his disappointment with Nunn for not championing LGBT issues and declining interview requests with LGBT media outlets, likening her to her father and former Sen. Sam Nunn, who was responsible for instituting for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“If Ms. Nunn wants to run on her father’s legacy, she has to embrace that entire legacy or explain how she is different — something she has failed to do when it comes to LGBT issues,” Cleghorn writes. “Instead, like her father before her, she is embracing a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ approach to our community. This only perpetuates anti-gay stigma because it’s easy to dislike those you do not know and cannot see.”

As such, the way that LGBT issues are playing out in Senate races across the country is distinctive depending on the region, with strong support in more traditionally “blue” states and virtually silence in “red” states.

Dan Pinello, who’s gay and a political scientist at the City University of New York, said the difference in approach to the LGBT issues in various Senate reflects the perception of popularity of LGBT rights in those contests.

“Accordingly, the senate candidates in large measure are responding to what they perceive their state histories to mean,” Pinello said. “Overtly supporting gay marriage in Oregon today doesn’t require any political courage, while doing so in Arkansas, Georgia, and Louisiana does necessitate such valor.”

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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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