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ENDA won’t happen in lame duck: sources

LGBT bias measure unlikely to be attached to Defense bill

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John Boehner, Ohio, Republican Party, GOP, United States House of Representatives, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade
John Boehner, Ohio, Republican Party, GOP, United States House of Representatives, U.S. Congress, gay news, Washington Blade

ENDA is unlikely to come up for a vote during lame duck under House Speaker John Boehner. (R-Ohio) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Passage of long sought federal legislation to bar discrimination against LGBT workers in the lame duck session is unlikely despite hopes the bill would pass before the year is out, according to Capitol Hill sources familiar with the bill.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed last year in the Democratic-controlled Senate on a bipartisan basis by a 64-32 vote, but the Republican House never brought up the bill. A successful vote in that chamber would be all that’s necessary to deliver the bill to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

Hopes persisted the measure would move forward when the dust settled after Election Day, perhaps as a floor amendment in the Senate to the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill, but now that Republican gains flipped control of the chamber, even that method of getting ENDA to President Obama seems unlikely to succeed.

Two Senate aides familiar with the defense authorization bill, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Blade that it’s unlikely the Senate will allow any floor amendments to the legislation — let alone pro-LGBT legislation that would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The idea of passing ENDA as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, a tactic that was employed in 2009 to pass the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was endorsed by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), an original co-sponsor of ENDA in the House, and pushed by the LGBT group Freedom to Work.

The office of outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t respond to multiple requests to comment on whether an ENDA amendment would be an option for the defense bill.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who’s gay and one of the co-chairs of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said in an interview with the Washington Blade on Friday passage of ENDA as an amendment in the Senate to the defense authorization bill would be “definitely a path that I’d be supportive of,” but at the same time referred to the efforts as nothing but a rumor.

“I think it’s going to be hard,” Pocan said. “For most of the legislation, they’re going to wait until January when they have a Republican House and a Republican Senate. So, I think the lame duck session could be more lame than usual perhaps because of that, and I would be really surprised if much of substance especially around LGBT issues moves.”

The House already passed a $594 billion version of the defense authorization bill in May, so including ENDA as part of the larger legislation would require the Democratic-controlled Senate to attach the bill as an amendment on the floor. Focus would then move to the conference committee to see if the provision remains in place after it hashes out compromise legislation.

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, had a similarly dim view of prospects for ENDA passage in the lame duck session of Congress.

“I think there is no appetite among House Republicans to do so, particularly after their electoral gains earlier this month,” Thompson said. “In addition, I do not think we’ll see very many — if any — unrelated riders on the defense authorization bill this year. If anything, debate on that bill could become bogged down over demands for a vote on authorizing the use of force against ISIL.”

Any attempt to move the Senate-passed version of ENDA would likely be complicated by opposition from groups that have dropped support from the bill because of its religious exemption, such as the National LGBTQ Task Force and the ACLU. The language in the Senate-passed version of ENDA would allow religious-affiliated organizations to discriminate against LGBT workers in non-ministerial positions, unlike protections for other groups under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Jerame Davis, executive director of the LGBT labor group Pride at Work, said the Senate would need to pass a version of ENDA with a narrower religious exemption as part of the defense authorization bill for his organization to support the measure.

“It’s not clear what language would be used in such a scenario,” Davis said. “Pride at Work would support language that is fully inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression and that also contains no religious exemptions beyond what is already included in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”

That’s a tall order to fill given that lawmakers deemed the more expansive religious exemption necessary to obtain support from Republicans and conservative Democrats to meet the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said his boss “supports adding the revised Polis bill” to the defense authorization bill in the Senate. Pelosi has affirmed the Senate-passed version of ENDA is better than nothing; Hammill said her position on that version of the legislation is unchanged.

“This legislation would pass in a heartbeat on its own in the House if Speaker Boehner would only allow a vote,” Hammill added.

With the defense authorization bill likely off the table as a means to pass ENDA, LGBT advocates who continue to support the Senate-passed bill nonetheless continue to push forward and lobby in hopes of a vote on standalone legislation in the House.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said when asked if he’d bring up the legislation for a vote that he sees “no basis or no need” for the legislation because he believes workers are already protected and ENDA would lead to extraneous lawsuits — much to the consternation of LGBT advocates who say that information is inaccurate. At a meeting early this year with the LGBT Equality Caucus, Boehner said there’s “no way” the bill would come up for a vote during this session of Congress, according to Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.).

Michael Steele, a Boehner spokesperson, deferred on the possibility of an ENDA vote during lame duck to the office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Nonetheless, a meeting between Log Cabin Republicans and Freedom to Work took place last week with Boehner’s staff in which ENDA was a topic, according to participants in the meeting.

Christian Berle, legislative director for Freedom to Work, said the meeting was part of the group’s efforts to meet with staff from each Republican office on ENDA.

“We have held numerous meetings with Speaker Boehner’s office and other members of Republican leadership, making the case that Congress should advance LGBT workplace protections,” Berle said. “We look forward to working closely with our allies, including Representatives Charlie Dent, Chris Gibson and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to utilize every opportunity to bring ENDA up for a vote.”

Gregory Angelo, Log Cabin’s executive director, confirmed a meeting took place, but declined to comment further. Boehner’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on the meeting.

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, also wasn’t willing to throw in the towel on ENDA.

“ENDA can still pass this year,” Sainz said. “All it takes is the House Republican leadership giving the green light. It’s not too late.”

Steve Elmendorf, a gay Democratic lobbyist, was succinct in his assessment of whether ENDA would pass this Congress. Asked if he sees a path toward passage, Elemendorf replied, “No.”

“There’s no chance for much of anything in the lame duck,” Elemendorf added. “Because it’s a shift in control and the president’s in all likelihood going to do this immigration executive order, the Republicans are not interested in doing much of anything in the lame duck. They don’t want to do an omnibus spending bill, they probably won’t do DOD. They’re going to pass a three-month [continuing resolution] in all likelihood and go home.”

Another option for passing ENDA is the discharge petition that has been filed for the legislation by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), which would require signatures from 218 House members to force a vote on the House floor.

Pride at Work’s Davis said the discharge petition is the best option to pass ENDA in the remaining days of the 113th Congress.

“The best solution would be for the House to adopt Congressman Jared Polis’ discharge petition, which not only forces the Senate-passed version of ENDA to the floor of the House for a vote, but also amends the Senate bill to remove the overly broad religious exemptions that have caused so much controversy,” Davis said.

The version of ENDA associated with the discharge petition has a religious exemption along the lines of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the maneuver apparently stalled out after it was signed by only 190 House members — all Democrats. Republican supporters of ENDA have vowed not to sign the petition, including Ros-Lehtinen, who said through a spokesperson it’s a “partisan political tool.”

Among the ENDA supporters who haven’t signed the petition is Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), even though a spokesperson said she’d sign it after lawmakers return from August recess.

With ENDA passage doubtful in lame duck and even more difficult in the next two years with Republican control of both chambers of Congress, LGBT advocates may have to look elsewhere for added LGBT non-discrimation workplace protections.

Those arenas include state legislatures and the courts, which have yet to determine that existing civil rights law under Title VII applies to workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as they and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have explicitly done for gender-identity discrimination. In July, President Obama signed an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors that is expected to take effect early next year.

Despite Republicans winning control of both chambers of Congress, Pocan was nonetheless unwilling to rule out passage next year, saying “there’s some promise” for ENDA.

“I certainly don’t want to see us flip back at all, but I think having…two major candidates who were out Republican hopefully means they’re willing to be a bit more inclusive and not just when they think they can pick up seats, but because they actually believe it,” Pocan said.

Much of the attention previously on ENDA will probably be refocused on a comprehensive bill expected to be introduced for the first time in the next Congress and include protections in employment, housing, federal programs, credit, education and public accommodations. It’s possible another version of ENDA with a more expansive religious exemption could be introduced alongside it by Republican lawmakers.

Elemendorf said more discussion is going to have to take place within the LGBT community over ENDA when Republicans control both chambers of Congress.

“You need to introduce a bill and you need to figure out what bill gets you the potential for a bipartisan vote,” Elemendorf said. “But I think it’s still too early to figure that out. This still happened two weeks ago.”

UPDATE: The article has been updated with an additional comment from a Pelosi spokesperson reaffirming her view that the Senate-passed version of ENDA is better than nothing.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Katrina Rose

    November 19, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Hey Joe Solmonese! Have you noticed how close we are to Jan. 20, 2017?

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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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