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Despite Obama support, hurdles remain for bans on ‘ex-gay’ therapy

GOP opposition and past failures stand in the way



Valerie Jarrett, gay news, Washington Blade
Valerie Jarrett, gay news, Washington Blade

Valerie Jarrett said the White House backs bans on “ex-gay” conversion therapy. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The White House announcement in support of bans on “ex-gay” conversion therapy galvanized debate on prohibitions of the widely discredited practice for minors, but efforts to enact such measures throughout the country face significant hurdles.

In 2015 alone, legislation to ban the practice for minors has been introduced in at least 18 states. But non-related issues ranging from disputes over committee structure, Republican control and past failures stand in the way of these bills despite the statement from Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, endorsing a state-by-state approach in anticipation of “broader action” at later time.

States in which legislation to ban conversion therapy is pending include: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State. Laws have already been enacted in California, New Jersey and D.C.

According to a brief from LGBT Movement Advancement Project made public after the White House statement, 83 percent of LGBT people throughout the country live in a jurisdiction where  “ex-gay” conversion therapy for minors remains legal.

The state with the best shot at passing a ban on conversion therapy is Oregon, where the Youth Mental Health Protection Act passed Oregon’s House last month with bipartisan support on a 41-18 vote.

Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, said the bill has strong support in the Senate, which will likely take up the bill later this month or in early May, and she expects Gov. Kate Brown, the first openly bisexual governor, to sign the bill.

“I think that the announcement from the president and the efforts from the White House really helped raised the visibility of this issue in a very positive way,” Frazzini said. “The strong statements underscoring how dangerous this practice is, how fully discredited it has been by every mental health national association in the country is a real boost to efforts like ours in Oregon.”

Other states seeing momentum on the issue include Illinois, New York and Washington State, but Republican control of the governor’s mansion or at least one chamber of the legislature, in addition to previous failures, loom over potential passage this time around.

In Illinois, a House committee approved the bill last month by a 9-5 vote. The legislature is in recess for the time being, but the full House must vote when it reconvenes before an April 24 deadline to ensure the Senate takes the measure this session.

Mike Ziri, director of public policy for Equality Illinois, said his organization plans to push legislation during a citizens lobby day on Wednesday.

“I do think the president’s announcement has brought a lot of very good attention to the issue,” Ziri said. “Now, I think, media, citizens and legislators are paying attention more closely, and saying, ‘Hey! What is the president talking about? This is important.'”

Both the Illinois House and Senate are controlled by Democrats, but the governor of the state is newly seated Bruce Rauner, a Republican who hasn’t yet commented on the bill.

If Rauner were to sign the legislation into law, he wouldn’t be the first Republican governor to enact a ban on “ex-gay” therapy. In 2013, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a prohibition on the practice to minors in his state, saying in a signing statement he doesn’t believe being gay is a choice.

Another issue with the Illinois bill is the failure of the legislation to pass out of the House in the previous session. Last year, the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, was rejected by a 44-55 vote.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), who sponsors the bill in the House, said the legislation came up on the last day of the session when many co-sponsors were away, saying she expects a different outcome this time around.

“We were just 20 votes short of people who we knew were going to ‘yeses,’ so it was just a tough day to have to run the bill,” Cassidy said.

In New York, legislation sponsored by Assembly member Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) has passed the Higher Education Committee and awaits a vote in full Assembly before heading to the Senate.

Nathan Schaefer, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, said the White House statement has drawn attention to the issue, but additional momentum is hard to gauge because the legislature is out of session until next week.

“There isn’t additional legislative progress since the president’s announcement, but there certainly is a lot more attention and visibility, which I think will certainly lend itself to success in the legislature as well,” Schaefer said.

Last year, the measure passed the Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, by a 86-28 vote, but the measure never came up in the Senate under Republican control. The same political dynamic remains in place this around time around.

“We fully anticipate that it’ll go through next committee step and pass in the Assembly again in this legislative session,” Schaefer said. “The challenge then becomes where can it go within the New York State Senate because we know the Assembly will pass it. We know the governor is very supportive, so we totally anticipate he will sign it into law.”

Nonetheless, Schaefer was optimistic about the Republican-controlled chamber and hopes to obtain a commitment for a vote, noting unlike last year the Senate version of the legislation now has a GOP co-sponsor.

In Washington State, the Democratic-controlled House passed a ban on conversion therapy for minors one day after the White House statement on Friday by a vote of 60-37. But the issue is the same as New York, the legislation now heads to the Senate, which is under Republican control.

Monisha Harrell, board chair of Equal Rights Washington, said support at the national level from the White House created “greater national awareness,” but she’s not sure it’ll have an impact in her state.

“I don’t know what it’s going to do on the final vote on our bill though because in some ways, this can be seen as being made into partisan issue,” Harrell said. “This really isn’t a partisan issue. Children’s lives are not something that we should be playing politics with.”

In Iowa, where Republicans control both the governor’s mansion and the House, the path forward seems blocked, even though the Senate narrowly passed a ban conversion therapy last month by a 26-24 vote.

Matty Smith, a spokesperson for One Iowa, said he sees no evidence of the House budging on the legislation in the aftermath of the White House statement.

“This is extremely disappointing, because Iowa could have been ahead of the curve on banning the dangerous practice of conversion therapy for minors, and it wasn’t,” Smith said.

In Massachusetts, the most immediate problem facing the ban on “ex-gay” therapy is a dispute between the House and Senate over committee structure.

Don Gorton, a Massachusetts attorney who leads the coalition to pass the ban in the state, said he’s confident about a favorable hearing in the legislature on the “ex-gay” ban, but for the time being efforts are stalled.

“It’s a little disconcerting to be tied up for reasons that are beyond our control, but the White House statement has breathed fresh momentum into this initiative,” Gorton said. “This is a state in which President Obama is very popular, and his endorsement will be something that we can tout in the Democratic legislature. So, we’re very optimistic that it’s going to be helpful here and it came at the right time, but we’re stalled for reasons beyond our control.”

Gorton also had faith Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, would sign the legislation based on the White House statement and Christie to sign the New Jersey bill into law.

“I think the president’s position will box him in. He doesn’t like to be to the right of Obama on social issues,” Gorton said. “So I think if he’s trying to maintain a posture of being a supporter of LGBT rights, we’re optimistic he’ll do the right thing once we get through the legislature.”

In other states, the White House statement came as legislative sessions were coming to a close and too late for any impact on the current legislative session. That was the case in Virginia, which already faced an uphill task in passing the bill against “ex-gay” therapy because of Republican control in the Assembly.

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said nonetheless the bill had momentum going forward and the White House statement may be beneficial in 2016.

“As we work here in Virginia to end so-called conversion therapy, it is meaningful to know that we have support from the White House,” Parrish said. “It’s unbelievable, really, that such a damaging practice – and one that is condemned by all the major health organizations – is still legal in almost all states. Being gay or transgender is not a choice, and we must do everything we can to protect and support all of our youth as they come to terms with who they are.”

In other states, like Ohio, where the Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, the effort for the time being is geared toward building support from other institutions outside of the legislative process.

Grant Stancliff, communications director for Equality Ohio, said he would imagine additional discussion in this vein about the legislation as a result of the White House statement.

“Because Ohio is Ohio, we sometimes have to work angles in addition to the legislature to get equality for the community,” Stancliff said. “As a result, we’re working with members of the The Ohio Psychological Association the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Work board to firm up policies that are explicit about ex-gay and conversion therapies. So far that seems to be working very well.”

In Minnesota, where Republicans control the Senate and the Democrats control the House, legislation introduced earlier in the session seems to have stalled.

Jacob Thomas, spokesperson for “Can’t Convert Love MN,” said an upcoming public effort will attempt to capitalize on the White House statement in anticipation of passage at a later time.

“It is our hope that through this awareness campaign—and the efforts of our coalition partners—we will be able to pass legislation that bans conversion therapy for minors and vulnerable adults in the next legislative cycle,” Thomas said.

While challenges remain for these bans in the state legislatures, the courts have been favorable to the laws. Just this week, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionally of the New Jersey law for the second time, rejecting a challenge on the basis that it violates the rights of children and their parents. A petition seeking review of a separate decision in New Jersey is pending before the Supreme Court.

Action is also expected at the federal level. On Monday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced he’ll introduce legislation next month to reform residential treatment programs, which his office says is relevant to the White House statement because some of them employ conversion therapy.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) on Tuesday introduced the “Stop Harming Our Kids” resolution, which calls on states to ban conversion therapy. According to her office, she’s also pursuing the possibility of a full federal ban, but “several surprisingly thorny technical issues” are in the way.

Samantha Ames, an attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights who leads the #BornPerfect Campaign against conversion therapy, said other efforts must be underway.

“So much of the importance of these laws is public education,” Ames said. “We are going to pass as many laws as we can and we are going to win as many court cases as we can, but the way that we are going to end conversion therapy in five years is by putting this industry out of business, and we do that through public education and empowerment.”

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Top 10 Blade news stories by web traffic

COVID breakthroughs, Equality Act, and anti-trans attacks



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 “” 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



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



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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