Connect with us

homepage news

What does Republican Senate takeover mean for LGBT issues?

Fears of inaction may prompt ENDA move in lame duck

Published

on

Republican Party LGBT, United States Senate, Tom Cotton, Shelley Moore Capito, Mitch McConnell, Mike Rounds, gay news, Washington Blade
Republican Party LGBT, United States Senate, Tom Cotton, Shelley Moore Capito, Mitch McConnell, Mike Rounds, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former Gov. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) are responsible for Republican gains in the U.S. Senate. (Photos public domain)

When the polls closed on Tuesday, the Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate made clear further advancement of LGBT rights in Congress became a lot more complicated — if not totally put on ice.

Shortly after 11:20 pm, the Associated Press reported Republicans won control of the Senate — presumably clearing the way for Sen. Mitch McConnell to become Senate Majority Leader — by picking up seats in Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota. Additionally, media outlets projected Republicans would win about 10 seats in the U.S. House.

Gregory T. Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said the GOP gains will be a test for LGBT groups on whether they’re willing to work in a bipartisan fashion in the 114th Congress.

“This is really a time of choosing for LGBT advocates on the left,” Angelo said. “Do you support the left agenda, or do you actually support equal rights for Americans? Those who fall in the latter category are going to be the ones who are going to be come to the table with Republicans and find solutions, ways to pass things, like employment protections for LGBT individuals, that also reach consensus among Republicans.”

Angelo said he’ll meet with Log Cabin’s board of directors in January to discuss priorities, but one area of interest for which he’s seen a “tremendous appetite” among Republicans on Capitol Hill — even if they’re not on board with other pro-LGBT initiatives — is confronting human rights abuses against LGBT people overseas.

One bill that LGBT advocates may continue to push is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would bar employers from engaging in anti-LGBT bias in the workplace. There’s also interest in a comprehensive civil rights bill, which has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, which would institute LGBT protections in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit, education and federal programs.

But Republican control may put the kibosh on these bills in the upcoming Congress, let alone versions of the legislation sought by LGBT advocates that would narrow the religious exemption along the lines of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Jeff Cook-McCormac, senior adviser to the pro-LGBT Republican group American Unity Fund, nonetheless said he sees a way forward if an “authentically bipartisan strategy” is applied.

“Instead of being contentious, we’re going to have to meet Republican legislators where they are and engage in thoughtful conversations about the time in which they have the level of comfort to move legislation forward,” Cook-McCormac said. “I think it presents both new challenges and new opportunities for the movement to advance these issues.”

An important part of this strategy, Cook-McCormac said, is making sure Republican members are carrying bills of interest to the LGBT community in consultation with Democratic allies in Congress.

“With regard to advancing the ball forward on an issue that garners broad bipartisan support like non-discrimination, I think there will be an increasing level of interest,” Cook-McCormac added.

Even with Democratic control of the Senate, the current Congress didn’t yield much pro-LGBT legislation. A version of ENDA passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis last year, but the House Republican leadership never brought up the measure.

The one exception to the inaction on LGBT legislation was reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which included non-discrimination protections for victims of domestic violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the LGBT arm of the AFL-CIO known as Pride at Work, predicted more of the same inaction on LGBT legislation when Congress reconvenes in January thanks to Republican victories on Election Day.

“I think it means more gridlock and no movement on LGBT issues in Congress,” Davis said. “We’ve been, as you know, waiting for something akin to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to pass Congress for over 30 years and with a Republican-controlled Senate, we’re not likely to see movement. In fact, the last time that ENDA made any movement was in the Senate, and the Republican takeover means that bill is certainly dead in that house of Congress.”

With movement on pro-LGBT legislation in question, advocates may be looking elsewhere in arenas other than Congress to advance LGBT rights.

That includes action from Obama, whom advocates are pushing to lift the ban on transgender service in the U.S. military, and the courts, which are still issuing decisions on marriage equality and may soon interpret existing civil rights law to bar workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Davis said LGBT advocates will increasingly turn to state legislatures to act on initiatives if federal pro-LGBT bills continue to languish in Congress.

“Labor contracts protect LGBT union workers even in states with no legislative protections, but that’s not always an option,” Davis said. “Until Congress can pass a clean version of ENDA without extraneous religious exemptions, we will have to look to state legislatures to pick up the slack.”

Anti-gay group pledges ‘religious liberty’ bill

One fear is that Republican control of Congress could lead to passage of anti-LGBT legislation, much like the Federal Marriage Amendment that was brought up for a vote, but failed, the last time the party had majorities in both chambers of Congress during the administration of George W. Bush.

While the rapid growth in support for marriage equality makes such an amendment unlikely, anti-gay groups may push for some kind of federal religious exemption bill that would allow individuals or officials to opt out of facilitating same-sex marriages throughout the country.

In an email blast to supporters on Monday, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said immediately after the election his organization will “be meeting with the newly elected to discuss the upcoming term and what bills need to be advanced to protect marriage and religious liberty.” The plans, Brown said, include organizing for a 2015 “March for Marriage.”

Cook-McCormac said he doesn’t think anti-gay legislation along these lines will come up based on the Republican lack of interest in moving such bills in the House during the current Congress despite control of the chamber.

“I think there will still be reluctance by Republicans, as we’ve seen over the past two years in the House to advance legislation that in any way rolls back recent gains for LGBT Americans,” Cook-McCormac said. “Most Republican elected officials recognize that any efforts to turn the clock back on freedom for LGBT individuals is something that is extremely unpopular with the American people.”

That forecast for anti-gay bills is bolstered by recent history in Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a “turn away the gay” bill that would have enabled businesses to discriminate against LGBT people following a media frenzy after the Arizona Legislature passed the bill.

Moreover, any anti-gay bill that comes up in the Senate could be subject by minority Democrats to filibuster, which would take 60 votes to overcome. These bills would also be likely voted down by pro-LGBT members of the Republican caucus, such as marriage-equality supporters Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). In the event that anti-gay legislation somehow passes Congress, LGBT advocates would look to President Obama for a veto.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization views new Republican members of Congress as “an opportunity to educate and change hearts and minds.”

“LGBT equality isn’t a partisan issue,” Sainz said. “After all, LGBT people are born to all sorts of parents. We’re just as likely to be born to conservative Republican Baptist parents from Mississippi as we are to liberals from New York City. So it’s incumbent on us to reach out to individuals who we’ll hope to turn into allies and advocates.”

Will Republican House pass ENDA in lame duck?

The uncertainty about the upcoming Congress may also mean Democrats will take the opportunity of the lame duck session to move forward with pro-LGBT legislation while they remain in control of the Senate. Now that the election has taken place, lawmakers are due back in D.C. on Nov. 12 to finish their current session.

One idea sources close to ENDA have articulated is attaching the measure to a larger bill in the Senate, such as to the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill, to ensure it reaches Obama’s desk.

Cook-McCormac said Republican supporters of ENDA have “considerable interest” in seeing ENDA passed in the lame duck through one vehicle or another, but the limited timeline and few remaining “must-do” items in Congress to which ENDA could be attached present challenges.

“I think that it’s a little early to tell what the prospects are for something like that, but I do believe that over the next week, week-and-a-half, we’re going to have a much clearer idea of the type of things that might be possible in the lame duck, what the window looks like, and what types of efforts will be necessary to help that move forward,” Cook-McCormac said.

Angelo said he’s “hearing mixed messages” on whether passage of ENDA is a possibility during the lame duck session of Congress.

“I’m hearing Democrats in the Senate are hesitant to attach ENDA to something like NDAA reauthorization, and I’m hearing Republicans in the House are leaning toward attaching ENDA to NDAA reauthorization,” Angelo said.

Angelo identified Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) as an ENDA supporter who would be open to passing ENDA as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) as a Democrat who “did not have an appetite” for such a strategy. Their offices didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for a comment on the issue.

In a July interview with the Washington Blade, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), an ENDA co-sponsor, said he wanted to see the legislation passed as an amendment to a larger vehicle, but at that time wasn’t sure which legislation would be appropriate for ENDA.

An aide for outgoing Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, said the senator backs “any effort to pass” ENDA when asked if he supports attaching it as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

Any attempt to move ENDA in lame duck may encounter opposition from LGBT advocates because it would likely be the Senate-passed version of the legislation. That version has a religious exemption that would allow religious-affiliated businesses to continue to discriminate against LGBT workers in non-ministerial positions, unlike protections afforded to other groups under existing civil rights law. Many pro-LGBT organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National LGBTQ Task Force, have dropped support from this version of ENDA.

“Rather than getting into those fights, I want after the election to see if it’s something that is feasible during the lame duck session, and then we can talk strategy,” Angelo said. “But there are definitely those mixed signals that I’m getting.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

homepage news

Top 10 Blade news stories by web traffic

COVID breakthroughs, Equality Act, and anti-trans attacks

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

homepage news

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

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

homepage news

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

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular