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Business leaders silent as Texas lawmakers consider anti-gay vote

No comment from ExxonMobil, AT&T, others on marriage measure

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Religious Freedom, gay news, Washington Blade

The Texas House is set to vote on an anti-gay marriage bill. (Photo by Daniel Mayer; courtesy Wikimedia)

As Texas lawmakers prepare to vote on legislation aimed at circumventing an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage, the state’s business leaders are largely keeping quiet.

The business community’s opposition in Indiana helped ignite a media firestorm against a religious freedom law there that is so far absent in the Texas debate.

On Tuesday, the Texas House is set to vote on HB 4105, a bill that would prohibit the use of state or local funds to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Additionally, the legislation — one of among more than 20 pieces of pending anti-LGBT measures in the state legislature — would block state or local employees from recognizing a same-sex marriage license and prohibit the use of funds to recognize such unions.

Chuck Smith, executive director of the statewide LGBT group Equality Texas, said in a conference call Monday the “mean-spirited piece of legislation” seeks to subvert same-sex couples from marrying in Texas if the Supreme Court strikes down state bans on gay nuptials.

“While lesbian and gay couples in the rest of the country will celebrate the ability to get married, those in Texas will find yet another roadblock placed in their way denying them the ability to exercise their constitutional right to marry the person they love,” Smith said.

Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said the legislation is “patently unconstitutional,” but doesn’t know what impact a ruling from the Supreme Court would have on the measure if it were enshrined into law.

“Until we see what ruling the Supreme Court issues and how it is framed, I don’t think we’ll know what the impact on this law is,” Robertson said. “I think if this law were to go into effect, we are destined for litigation one way or the other.”

Defeating HB 4105 seems unlikely. The legislation as of Monday has a total of 87 co-authors, which exceeds the simple majority necessary to pass a bill in the 150-member chamber, according to the Texas Legislature’s website.

But the House in Texas is seen as the more moderate chamber of the legislature. Blocking passage in that chamber is crucial because the Senate is likely to pass the bill and Gov. Greg Abbott, an opponent of same-sex marriage, is expected to sign the measure into law if it reaches his desk.

The good news for LGBT advocates is that 204 bills are scheduled for a vote on Tuesday ahead of the marriage legislation and the deadline is Thursday at midnight for the House to pass legislation that hasn’t been already approved by the Senate. After that time, the bill would be essentially dead.

Advocates are looking to the business community to step in much like it did against religious freedom measures seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in Indiana, Arkansas and Arizona.

Smith said although business leaders haven’t been public in speaking out against HB 4105, behind the scenes they’re meeting with lawmakers to express concerns.

“I think much of the business opposition is occurring on a one-on-one basis where CEOs and government affairs people from many Texas-based companies are having conversations about the harms that legislation such as this — any legislation that specifically seeks out to target LGBT people — how that is harmful for the brand, especially in a state that has a Super Bowl pending in the coming years, that has a Final Four pending in the coming years,” Smith said.

Smith added he would “absolutely” like business leaders to begin speaking out against the legislation publicly in addition to the closed-door talks that he said are taking place.

But numerous business leaders in Texas, including the state’s most influential business association, had nothing to say about the legislation when contacted by the Washington Blade to see if they’d oppose the measures.

Robert Wood, spokesperson for the Texas Association of Businesses, said his organization hasn’t “taken any position, nor testified” on the legislation and doesn’t have any comment at this time.

That stands in contrast to the organization’s position on two proposed constitutional amendments in the Texas Legislature, House Joint Resolution 55 and Senate Joint Resolution 10, which are along the lines of the controversial religious freedom law in Indiana. The Texas Association of Businesses came out against those measures in March.

With estimated revenue of $407.6 billion in 2013, the largest company by revenue headquartered in Texas is oil-and-gas giant ExxonMobil. Scott Silvestri, an ExxonMobil spokesperson, responded to the legislation by saying, “We do not support discrimination of any kind,” but didn’t reply to a follow-up email on whether that applies to HB 4105.

The company has a history of opposing LGBT rights. On 17 different occasions, the company’s shareholders rejected a proposed resolution during the annual meeting to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the equal employment opportunity policy. Only after President Obama signed an executive order barring federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBT employment discrimination did ExxonMobil change its policy.

Many of the highest revenue companies in Texas belong to the energy sector. After ExxonMobil, the company with the greatest annual revenue is Phillips 66, which had 2013 revenue of $166.2 billion. A spokesperson for Phillip 66 said the company has no comment on the legislation.

Tina Barbee, a spokesperson for Texas-based oil company Tesoro 66 Corp., said the company is “not planning to participate in this article request.”

Other Texas-based companies with significant revenue, including Halliburton and ConocoPhillips, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The telecommunications giant AT&T, which had 2013 revenue of $128 billion, is based in Dallas. The company didn’t respond to the Blade’s request, but signed a statement from the Human Rights Campaign in opposition to state proposals that would allow anti-LGBT discrimination.

Matt Miller, a spokesperson for the Fort Worth-based American Airlines, responded to the legislation with a general statement that his company “has been a pioneer” in fair-minded policies for LGBT customers and employees.

“We believe no individual should be refused service or employment because of gender identity or sexual orientation,” Miller said. “Laws that allow such discrimination create an unfavorable social and business climate, are fundamentally unfair, and promote intolerance and division. They will also harm the economies of the states in which they are enacted, and would ultimately be a step in the wrong direction for a society that seeks tolerance, peace and prosperity for all.”

Asked whether that applies to HB 4105, Miller replied, “We don’t support any legislation that could be interpreted to allow businesses and business owners to refuse to provide services to individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A major difference between the religious freedom measures and the Texas legislation is bills in other states were seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in business, but the Texas bill is about state funding for the government service of issuing a marriage license.

[UPDATE: On Tuesday, Miller responded with an updated statement saying American Airlines opposes “any legislation that directly or indirectly discriminates” against LGBT people, pointing to the initial sentence when asked whether the statement applies to HB 4105.

“We oppose any legislation that directly or indirectly discriminates against individuals based on their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Miller said. “Laws that allow such discrimination create an unfavorable social and business climate, are fundamentally unfair, and promote intolerance and division. They will also harm the economies of the states in which they are enacted, and would ultimately be a step in the wrong direction for a society that seeks tolerance, peace and prosperity for all.”]

A spokesperson for the National Football League didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether it would be comfortable hosting Super Bowl LI as planned in Houston if HB 4105 becomes law.

Also declining to comment on the legislation at this time is the White House. And a spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign didn’t immediately provide a response.

HB 4105 isn’t the only bill headed toward a vote in the state legislature that could present a problem for gay and lesbian people in Texas. Other legislation, scheduled for a vote Monday in the Senate and Tuesday in the House, also presents a concern for LGBT advocates.

As initially written, the bills — HB 3567 in the House and SB 2065 in the Senate — would have allowed both clergy and religious-affiliated organizations to refuse both to celebrate same-sex marriages or treat existing marriages as valid. The legislation in the House has since been modified so that it would only affect the celebration gay weddings; language with respect to treating same-sex marriages as valid is now omitted.

Still, it’s unclear if the legislation passes whether clergy who also serve in a secular capacity, such as a justice of the peace, would be allowed to discriminate in their secular role.against same-sex couples seeking to wed.

Kathy Miller, president of the pro-LGBT Texas Freedom Network, said the bills have been made “tremendously better,” but her organization is pushing for a small change to make them more clear they would only affect clergy as they operate in the capacity of their religion.

“Because social services, hospitals and health care are often taken on by religious institutions and organizations in our state, we want to be clear and because clergy sometimes serve as a civil role in our state, we want to be sure that they language of the bill is clear that we are talking about the ecclesiastical role of the house of worship or the clergy, and not the roles they take in our civic life otherwise,” Miller said.

Given the speed with which the bills could move through the legislature and be signed into law, Miller said her organization is sounding the alarm at this time to make the greatest possible effort to derail the bills.

“The ball game is really all being in the Texas House of Representatives in the next 72 hours,” Miller said. “If I had to say, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s critical that people that speak out. The thing that will stop this bill from becoming law is growing outcry from Texans and business about the need to recognize the freedom to marry for all Texas citizens.”

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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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