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N.C. legislature overrides governor on anti-gay marriage bill

Law enables magistrates to opt out of performing marriages for religious reasons

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North Carolina, State Capitol, Raleigh, Gay News, Washington Blade

North Carolina State Capitol by Jim Bowen via Wikimedia Commons.

The North Carolina legislature has succeeded in overriding Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of controversial legislation that would enable magistrates to opt out of performing marriages to which they have religious objection, including a same-sex union.

The override succeeded in the House on Thursday by a vote of 69-41, which is three votes more than the three-fifths vote needed for the legislative maneuver. The Senate already succeeded in overriding the veto last week by a vote of 32-16.

The legislation, Senate Bill 2, would enable magistrates and registers of deeds to opt out of issuing marriage licenses for a period of at least six months to same-sex couples — or any couple — based on a religious objection.

McCrory, a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, vetoed the bill after the legislature initially sent it to him earlier this month, saying “no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath.”

Although the legislation doesn’t explicitly mention same-sex marriage and would require a magistrate to abstain from performing marriages until a recusal is rescinded, opponents of the bill say the legislation would have a discriminatory impact on same-sex couples.

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the pro-LGBT Campaign for Southern Equality, predicted LGBT advocates would seek to challenge the law in the courts.

“Senate Bill 2 is unconstitutional, and will undoubtedly be challenged in court,” Beach-Ferrara said. “This bill, which will now become law, is discriminatory and treats gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens. We are more determined than ever to achieve full equality for LGBT people in North Carolina and to ensure that LGBT youth know that they are not alone.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in North Carolina as a result of a federal court decision last year against the state’s prohibition on gay nuptials known as Amendment One. By the end of this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a decision on whether same-sex couples have the right to marry across the country.

Jake Sussman, an attorney with the Charlotte-based Tin Fulton Walker & Owen and lead counsel in the North Carolina marriage case, said the new law also runs contrary to the U.S. Constitution.

“This law is nothing more than state sanctioned discrimination,” Sussman said. “It is a terribly misguided attempt to rewrite what equal protection under the law means. Equality and fairness are not principles that are decided on a case-by-case basis, dependent upon who happens to be working the counter on a particular day. Neither the United States Constitution nor the North Carolina Constitution permit any such thing. It is terribly unfortunate that this many elected officials don’t understand that.”

A religious freedom bill seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in Indiana earlier this year garnered significant media attention and business opposition that led to a change to the law, the same opposition is lacking in North Carolina. The top three companies headquartered in North Carolina — Bank of America, BB&T and Belk — didn’t come out against SB2 when contacted by the Blade about the legislation, nor did the North Carolina Chamber.

Neither the White House nor the campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton responded to requests to comment on Senate Bill 2.

Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, lambasted the legislature for overriding the governor’s veto on the legislation.

“This a sad day for North Carolina that history will not judge kindly,” Preston said. “Just eight months after our state extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, extremist lawmakers have passed discrimination into law, allowing government officials to deny marriage services to virtually any couple. This shameful backlash against equality will make it harder for all couples in our state to marry and force many to spend what is supposed to be a happy day trapped in a maze of government offices.

Also opposing the enactment of Senate Bill 2 and suggesting the measure is unconstitutional was Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, the first openly gay person elected as mayor of the city.

“I condemn today’s N.C. House override of the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 2,” Kleinschmidt said. “Now the law in North Carolina, Senate Bill 2 carves out a constitutional exception to a public servant’s duty to provide equal access and justice under the law. All North Carolinians now have the possibility of being denied the services of a magistrate or register of deeds. Couples that include a divorced person, interracial couples, couples from different faiths, as well as same-sex couples have historically faced condemnation based on the religious beliefs of others.

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104 Comments

104 Comments

  1. yt1300inhtown

    June 11, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    They use all the usual left buzz words…history judging us…extremists…discrimination. Special rights for me but none for thee…

    • Jhary Kenshura

      June 11, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      You mean like the special right of marriage which only hetero couples should be allowed to have, according to this Bill?

      • BobD

        June 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm

        Jhary… nice job of demagoguery there… you should be proud.

        • Jhary Kenshura

          June 11, 2015 at 2:46 pm

          Might want to learn the definition of demagogue, Bob. Sort of like it is NOT a special right if one group is looking to have the same rights as another group. That’s actually called “equality”. I mean, I’m all for allowing this idea to spread across Carolina, the clerks at stores could stop serving people because it’s the Sabbath and you aren’t to shop on the Sabbath.

          • yt1300inhtown

            June 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

            You might want to learn the definition of marriage.

          • Jhary Kenshura

            June 11, 2015 at 3:25 pm

            (a) Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil
            contract between two persons, to which the consent of the parties
            capable of making that contract is necessary. Consent alone does not
            constitute marriage. Consent must be followed by the issuance of a
            license and solemnization as authorized by this division, except as
            provided by Section 425 and Part 4 (commencing with Section 500).
            (b) For purposes of this part, the document issued by the county
            clerk is a marriage license until it is registered with the county
            recorder, at which time the license becomes a marriage certificate.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 3:18 pm

            Talk about “learning”, try reading the Bill…this has absolutely nothing to “clerks at a store”, ergo your demagoguery is on display on that point.

          • Jhary Kenshura

            June 11, 2015 at 3:22 pm

            Exactly that it has nothing to do with clerks in a store. I said that. Yet again, another who doesn’t understand the word demagogue. I was pointing out that why not allow the IDEA behind this bill to spread to other areas in Carolina if it’s truly about protecting Christian values, which it isn’t.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 4:39 pm

            Ah, here comes the straw man’s argument. You said “this idea” and in that context, you would have to have been referring to the States decision to provide a “religious accommodation” to their employees. So….your analogy of clerks refusing to serve people was incorrect. Indeed, the Bill requires all couples to receive the same level of service. Again, try reading and understanding the Bill.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 5:41 pm

            You might want to check the definition of demagoguery yourself Jhary…

            “to treat or manipulate (a political issue) in the manner of a demagogue; obscure or distort with emotionalism, prejudice, etc.”

            No where in this bill does it say gays can’t marry… and Chuck… no where in the Bill of Rights does it even mention marriage, let alone gay marriage.

            Yeah, I’d say you guys are distorting the facts of this decision… which makes you guilty of demagoguery.

            Nice try…

      • Chuck

        June 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

        That is blatantly untrue…try reading the Bill. It requires that “all” marriages be performed.

    • Doh!

      June 11, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      You might be a bigot it: you believe discrimination is just a “lefty buzz word”.

      • BobD

        June 11, 2015 at 5:35 pm

        Discrimination based on characteristics? Or choice? I discriminate against coke all the time. I prefer pepsi. Am I evil for that?

    • anewleaf

      June 11, 2015 at 2:35 pm

      Look, if you’re hired to do a job, do the job. If you morally object to doing the job, get fired. Nobody should pay you to sit on your hands morally objecting to something. Especially not with public funds.

      • Chuck

        June 11, 2015 at 3:19 pm

        Performing marriages is but a small part of a magistrates duties. Those
        that recuse will simply be assigned more of the many other duties and
        more marriages will be performed by those who do not opt out. The Bill
        requires that “all” marriages be performed.

        • anewleaf

          June 11, 2015 at 3:24 pm

          Sorry man, being a jerk is not a protected class like disability. Your employer has every right to fire you if you want to pick and choose which duties of your job you deign worthy of your moral compass.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 3:30 pm

            LOL, in case you didn’t notice, it is the Employer that is making this choice.

          • anewleaf

            June 11, 2015 at 3:33 pm

            At the burden of the taxpayer, who must pay for two clerks in every town office, at least one of which is not a jerk. Otherwise, you have a wall of people who “morally object” to your legal right, essentially rendering that right unobtainable. Still doesn’t hold up. If you want to be town clerk, do your job and issue marriage licenses to legal applicant who you dislike. Quit whining. It’s not that bloody hard. I’m sure they do it all the time now for sinners everywhere.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 4:34 pm

            Again, try reading the Bill. If the “magistrates can’t keep up the Circuit and District Courts must perform in the interim. We still live in a Democratic Republic, and it was the “taxpayers” that voted in the legislature. If you don’t like it, go vote and quit your whining.

          • anewleaf

            June 11, 2015 at 4:04 pm

            Towns are honor bound to provide services using public funds responsibly. In the year 2015, nobody expects towns to hire a clerk for racially similar couples and another one for mixed race marriages. And they would be honor bound to fire any clerk who didn’t issue a license to a mixed race couple. It’s a legal marriage, and it’s really beside the point if you have a strong moral objection to not being racist. It’s illegal to discriminate among legal marriages based on your personal preferences.

            And don’t mistake, at the time when inter-racial marriage was made legal, many did hold that strongly-held, RELIGIOUS belief. Did it very likely happen that many inter-racial couples were turned away from clerk’s offices with no repercussions on that clerk. Probably? Does that make it right or ok to do in other contexts? No.

            If you want to keep SSM illegal, go ahead and try for that. You should. It’s an important debate. Once it is legal, you’ve got to provide that legal right to people if that’s your job. This flailing around and sulking is a childish tantrum thrown because you lost the real fight. You can take your ball and go home if you want, but you can’t stand on the pitcher’s mound disrupting the game for everybody else.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 4:19 pm

            Sound and fury, signifying nothing. Try reading and understanding the Bill. It requires that “all” marriages be performed and SSM couples will receive the same “service” that other couple do. Is it possible that some MAY violate? Perhaps, but according to the Bill that is cause for dismissal from employment.

  2. brianjudge

    June 11, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Let the boycotts begin! And, believe me, they will. North Carolina will pay dearly for this.

    • Exodus Twentyslashfour

      June 11, 2015 at 12:49 pm

      No, they won’t. I would have thought you homos would have learned something from Chik’Fil’A, Another sign that gays have inferior intellect….

      • Jeffrey Ricker

        June 11, 2015 at 1:10 pm

        Your intellectual legerdemain is another sign that siblings shouldn’t procreate with each other, but I guess the bible doesn’t have a prohibition against that. Hmm, go figure.

      • Erasure 25

        June 11, 2015 at 1:46 pm

        You went from Chik’Fil’A to intellect? That’s quite a non sequitur.

  3. Doh!

    June 11, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    If your religious beliefs prevent you from doing your job without discriminating, you’re in the wrong job.

    • Doh!

      June 11, 2015 at 12:49 pm

      Or perhaps you have the wrong religious beliefs, but probably better to stay away from that one.

    • anewleaf

      June 11, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      Nobody would accept a pig slaughterer, hired to slaughter pigs, who morally objected to harming pigs. Nobody would pay them to sit on their hands not doing their job. They’d need to go find a different job, one that doesn’t compromise their moral objections.

      You are hired to approve legal marriages, do your job. You are hired to dispense medicine according to a doctor’s orders, do your job. You are hired to run a hospital to provide medical services to the public, do your job. Don’t sit on your hands taking money (PUBLIC money in many cases) for not doing your job. Go find a job you can do without getting your delicate panties in a twist.

      And get your fake moral objections off my lawn: http://www.flowerhorne.com/blog/2013/11/26/get-your-fake-conscience-objections-off-my-lawn

      • Chuck

        June 11, 2015 at 3:10 pm

        Bad analogy…performing marriages is but a small part of a magistrates duties. Those that recuse will simply be assigned more of the many other duties and more marriages will be performed by those who do not opt out. The Bill requires that “all” marriages be performed.

        • Jhary Kenshura

          June 11, 2015 at 3:13 pm

          Unless too many opt out, in which case it then becomes a burden on those who don’t, and the people who want to be married.

        • anewleaf

          June 11, 2015 at 3:29 pm

          Sorry man, being a jerk is not a protected class like disability. Your employer has every right to fire you if you want to pick and choose which duties of your job you deign worthy of your moral compass.

    • Chuck

      June 11, 2015 at 2:58 pm

      Well, first of all, SSM was not the law when they were hired. Secondly, it is the Employer, in this case the State, that defines the specific duties and how they are assigned and this is what they are doing…so what’s your real beef??

      • Doh!

        June 11, 2015 at 3:04 pm

        My beef is the fact that they are refusing to do their jobs in accordance with non-discrimination laws. The fact that laws change does not mean they can ignore them.
        They’re happy to accept public money, but refuse to obey public law.

        • Chuck

          June 11, 2015 at 5:15 pm

          Robert, the Court has indeed recognized the right; that is, the right to provide “religious accommodations” in accordance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as EEOC and SCOTUS rulings. Thank you.

        • Chuck

          June 11, 2015 at 5:19 pm

          Wrong, there is no discrimination…read the Bill. All couples will receive the same treatment. This Bill is the law and simply is a religious accommodation that is perfectly legal.

      • cc423

        June 11, 2015 at 3:52 pm

        How about people who are paid by the tax payers do their jobs for ALL taxpayers.

        • Chuck

          June 11, 2015 at 5:16 pm

          cc423, all taxpayers will receive the same treatment under the Bill. Have you read the Bill? It is the taxpayers that voted in the legislature.

          • cc423

            June 11, 2015 at 5:32 pm

            They are allowed to pick and choose who they will work with That is how this bill reads. And that is not how America works.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 5:40 pm

            That is a false statement and if you really read the bill you would know this… cite the passage. Otherwise, stop your demagoguery.

          • cc423

            June 11, 2015 at 5:45 pm

            Was this law created to “protect” these magistrates from straight couples? No it was not. It was created to punish gay tax paying American citizens. And to say anything else is 100% disingenuous.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 6:01 pm

            cc423 – Still haven’t read the Bill I see. If you have, try telling us what the Bill says that allows the gay tax payer to be punished over the straight couples. Waiting……

          • cc423

            June 11, 2015 at 6:39 pm

            I have read the bill. What am I missing? It clearly states that a Magistrate may recuse themselves from performing weddings if they have a sincerely held religious belief about denying that couple a wedding license. Hmmmm I wonder who they are directing this Bill at? Did they do this because they do not want Jews marrying Christians? Whites marrying blacks? No. This Bill was created in a backlash against gay marriage. If you think it was not, then you are either a liar or and idiot… Either way as far as I can see.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 6:58 pm

            cc423, I can agree that there was some “revenge” factor here, but at the same time there was some attempt to retain employees to do the State’s business. Now any “punishment” as you put it, will befall straight couples equally. So while you can hypothesize the percentage of motivating factors among the various legislators, it really doesn’t offer much in the way of constructive criticism.

      • Robert

        June 11, 2015 at 3:58 pm

        Their job duties aren’t frozen in time. In any case, the court recognizes rights, doesn’t create new ones.

        • Chuck

          June 11, 2015 at 6:48 pm

          Indeed, the Courts have recognized that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act allows for an employees “religious accommodation”, further supported by EEOC and SCOTUS rulings. Also available are claims for religious exemptions under the RFRA.

      • BobD

        June 13, 2015 at 12:13 pm

        Their real beef is that someone, somewhere, doesn’t accept their whacko view of how things should be. To these people, it’s in-your-face, or you’re a homophobe.

  4. tarfu

    June 11, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Show me all the hateful bigots that are angry about this decision and I’ll show you a slew of Grindr profiles that they are hiding on their phones. Hate will not prevail in today’s world. Not anymore. The cruelty of the past will end nationwide before we know it. Ignorance is bliss as long as you stay on your country bumpkin dirty road and let the rest of us live with the general respect that any decent person should have for any other person that is different than them. You don’t have to accept it, but you do have to be tolerant of it. We have to tolerate religious nutjobs left and right with their baffling bullshit all day. Face it. Equality is winning and love is winning and watching the hate fester in the bible belt that can’t wake up and smell the roses is honestly nothing short of hilarious. Maybe take some of that hate and focus it inward to seek a better self.

  5. BobD

    June 11, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    This is what happens in reaction to frivolous lawsuits filed against the wedding industry. America is a free country, and while you’re free to get married, people are also free to have nothing to do with your marriage.

    But you’re not willing to stop there… because to you, that’s “discrimination.” Those photographer, bakery, and florist lawsuits show that you don’t just want freedom… you want the right to compel people to agree with you. And that is an “in your face” attitude that Americans will not tolerate.

    Too bad if you don’t like that. If you want the civil rights that come with marriage, you’re going to have to tolerate religious freedom and the individual right to dissent. Because the bottom line is this: Americans do not like to be compelled to do something they morally disagree with. And militant gays have tried to do just that… and are now facing the backlash.

    Too bad a few spoiled it… but wait. That’s not really what happened. Because I’ve been in this argument for a year or so, and every reply I’ve gotten has been, “if you’re not willing to serve a gay wedding, you shouldn’t be in business.”

    Wow; That’s freedom for ya there!! Obey me, or you don’t have any right to own a business. Hmmmm Think about it.

    • Nickolas Short

      June 11, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      If you serve the public, you need to serve ALL of the public, as required by law.

      If same sex marriage is legal, then anyone who can marry people should be obligated to marry anyone who is eligible.

      • BobD

        June 11, 2015 at 1:33 pm

        Nicholas; That’s just doubling down on the discrimination argument. “If you disagree with me, you don’t deserve a job in the public sector.” That is compulsion… not freedom.

        Oh, and you write, “then anyone who can marry people should be obligated to marry anyone who is eligible.” Would that include a priest or pastor of a Christian church? Are you telling us you think that gays should be able to sue a church for refusing to marry them?

        Apparently you didn’t think very long or very hard on the issues here… knee-jerk reaction at best.

        • Erasure 25

          June 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm

          You don’t understand how this works. A business MUST get a license to operate from the City. The City, as a government agency funded by public tax dollars, cannot establish a religion. Therefore, a public serving business operating under a City license cannot refuse service citing religious reasons. A person is free to practice their own religion as they please. A public serving business MUST operate in accordance with its City license, which among other things, generally requires service to all persons.

          Also, the act of baking a cake and selling it for money/profit under a City-approved business license has nothing to do with practicing one’s religion. They are completely unrelated things. So the religious freedom clause of the Constitution doesn’t even remotely apply.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 1:53 pm

            Nice try, Erasure… but you’re still just doubling down on the idea that compulsion is okay.

          • Erasure 25

            June 11, 2015 at 1:55 pm

            Again, you fail to understand how the USA functions. Compulsory in certain areas is OK. You MUST get a license to operate a business. That is not optional. It is compulsory.

            A Pastor does not have to marry anyone they do not want to because they are serving their function in a Church. The Church is protected under the Constitution. A person serving a CIVIC duty as part of our Government (which cannot establish a religion) must fulfill their duty as part of the Government, which mandates that they serve people equally. The Court has ruled same-sex marriage legal. Therefore, a person serving in a Governmental function must provide for same-sex marriage, as that is the law of the land.

            Religion has never been established in legal precedent as a carte-blanche excuse to wantonly discriminate everywhere. Otherwise, you could have a Christian Doctor who refuses to treat a patient just because they are: jewish, muslim, gay, atheist, black, white, Irish, etc. A civilized society cannot have this.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 2:23 pm

            So, we’re back to “agree with me or you don’t have a right to…” do what?

            Pastor a church? Run a business? Work in the public sector?

            Wow; There’s freedom for you… As I said, no wonder there’s a public backlash. You are characterizing compulsion to participate in an event as discrimination, and that’s just not true.

            I mean, it’s not like christianity just decided this… more like a serious tenet that’s only 4000 years old.

          • Doh!

            June 11, 2015 at 2:39 pm

            Of course you do. But you have to do so in compliance with applicable laws, including those applying to discrimination.
            How do you believe the age of discriminatory practices factors in their legality?

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 4:04 pm

            Doh… Still stuck on discrimination, I see. This is becoming tedious, so get a clue: Homosexuality is not a federally protected class. That’s what this decision in NC was about. The more you fight for this idea of compulsion in the name of equal protection, the more backlash gays will experience.

          • Doh!

            June 11, 2015 at 4:32 pm

            Sigh. Ok, Bob. Keep fighting the good fight on behalf of bigots everywhere.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 5:30 pm

            Hmmm Requesting that you respect my (or other’s) religious right to not participate in an event makes me a bigot in your eyes. Yeah… that’s why NC passed this law. You just won’t accept any other view… which makes you stuck on stupid. GFY.

          • Jhary Kenshura

            June 11, 2015 at 2:53 pm

            Because Christianity wants to pick and chose which things it wants to be offended by from the Bible and use them in discriminitory ways. Bible says to not work on the Sabbath. Where is the outcry for making business close on Sunday? Why are true Christians being discriminated against who want to keep the Sabbath holy? Why aren’t Jews allowed to do the same and not work from Sundown Friday to Sundown Saturday? As the bill isn’t worded exactly to keep them from marrying gays, when do we get the first case of someone not doing their job because they don’t want to marry a mixed race couple? The right to not agree with them stops at denying them a right they already have.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 3:13 pm

            Exactly, Jhary… Christians are free people who can indeed choose to follow the bible or not… including picking and choosing their issues. That’s called “free exercise”… just in case you never heard of it.

            And because of that free exercise right, you have no right to condemn a person who chooses to follow the bible. That is a restriction on religion, and a much higher violation of constitutional rights that any equal protection law.

          • Jhary Kenshura

            June 11, 2015 at 3:17 pm

            No, it’s called “discrimination”. They aren’t following the Bible, they are following the parts of it that they like so they can act in ways to discriminate against others, and then use religion as justification.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 3:58 pm

            You’re just not getting this freedom of religion thing… probably because you disagree that religion should be free?

            Also, you guys act like “discrimination” is some evil buzzword. Clue here: If you buy chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla because you like chocolate more, you’re discriminating. Geez! Get a grip.

            Discrimination is bad when it’s based on a characteristic… instead of a choice.

          • Doh!

            June 11, 2015 at 2:04 pm

            BobD, what you have failed to understand is that, in some situations, compulsion IS ok.

            Nobody has forced, say, a flower vendor, to go into business selling flowers. But if he/she chooses to do so, there ARE laws with which the business must comply, in most (all?) cases including non-discrimination ordinances.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 5:49 pm

            So, according to you, I’m not allowed to sell flowers or take pictures unless I also sell flowers to or take pictures at gay weddings. Wow… yeah… that good ol’ USA freedom there.

        • Nickolas Short

          June 11, 2015 at 2:21 pm

          Protection is for people, not positions.

          A person can discriminate all they want when they’re acting as an individual. Acting in an official capacity should not have that protection, as you’re representing the opinions of your state, not your own.

          If you don’t like it, become a contractor, where you can choose your own work.

          Also, when you say “I do.” to your spouse in front of a priest, you’re not actually married. You have to fill out paperwork.

          The tides have turned. Do you even think, bro?

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 2:28 pm

            But Nicholas; You’re wrong… those wedding vendors were contractors… and were successfully sued in lower courts. Too bad there was never an appeal.

            And the tides are turning again… most people do not like the idea of being compelled.

            Return the question, “Bro”… Do you think?… because this “discrimination” argument is a straw man argument.

          • Nickolas Short

            June 11, 2015 at 2:54 pm

            http://lmgtfy.com/?q=independent+contractor

            “The United States Supreme Court has offered the following guidelines to distinguish employees from independent contractors:

            The extent to which services are integral to the employer’s business. Greater integration favors an employee-employer relationship.

            The permanence of the relationship. More established relationships favor employee status.”

            Wedding vendors are not contractors. Baker’s entire income is hinged on baking cakes and stuff.

            Now, if a baker hired someone to sift flour, that person would be considered an independent contractor.

            Any comment on your priest angle?

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 3:15 pm

            Nicholas; A wedding vendor is not a contractor according to you? I think you need to return your law degree to walmart for a refund.

          • Nickolas Short

            June 11, 2015 at 3:35 pm

            Resorting to ad hominem attacks, now?

            Have a nice life. Hopefully you won’t be a bigoted jerk for the rest of it.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 3:54 pm

            Oh, I am SO SORRY!! Forgive me for calling bullcrap what it is! Please forgive me… I beg you…

          • Paul Linxwiler

            June 11, 2015 at 2:59 pm

            Don’t worry, Bob. These magistrates WILL be compelled by a federal judge to obey. Just watch. You’ll crumble just like your traitorous confederate ancestors before the power of the federal government.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 3:19 pm

            Paul; You’re right… they probably will… by some liberal who ignores the fact that homosexuality is not a protected class under federal law, or that any attempt to add it must go through congress. Which means it will be struck down on appeal…

            So, long after gay marriage is permitted, this issue of compulsion will go to the supreme court… I should add, as it needs to. I certainly hope the court chooses wisely, instead of with the knee-jerk reaction you expect from some federal lower court.

          • Paul Linxwiler

            June 11, 2015 at 3:52 pm

            Doesn’t work like that. State officials who defy federal court orders can be held personally liable in lawsuits. Your magistrate refuse to issue you a marriage license because you’re gay? Sue him: he won’t enjoy the protection of his office if he’s in violation of an order. This won’t “go back” to the Supreme Court. This bullshit will come to a screeching halt in two weeks when the Supremes rule that the 14th compels states to offer licenses to same-sex couples.

          • BobD

            June 11, 2015 at 4:07 pm

            If you think the supremes will rule broadly on equal protection, you’re dreaming. At best (for you), they will make marriage legal, without saying a thing about who has to perform them.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 5:56 pm

            Paul, more demagoguery I see. Try reading the Bill before making false assumptions. If a magistrate recuses himself he will be performing no marriages or issue no licenses, so how could he refuse to?

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 5:54 pm

            Hogwash, the Bill is perfectly legal and not unconstitutional. The Bill requires all couples seeking marriage to be treated equally. Try reading and understanding the Bill, stop the demagoguery and say something that makes sense.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 6:35 pm

            The Employer, the State in this instance is the one determining what “official capacity” you work in. Further Title VII extends to government and governmental agency employees. Finally there is no discrimination here as all couples will be treated the same.

      • Chuck

        June 11, 2015 at 3:23 pm

        “If same sex marriage is legal, then anyone who can marry people should be obligated to marry anyone who is eligible.”
        Ok, fine… those that “recuse” will not be able to perform “any” marriages. Performing marriages is but a small part of a magistrates duties. Those that recuse will simply be assigned more of the many other duties and more marriages will be performed by those who do not opt out. The Bill requires that “all” marriages be performed.

        • Nickolas Short

          June 11, 2015 at 3:30 pm

          The point is not that they won’t be performing any marriages.

          The point is that they won’t be performing any marriages, because they don’t want to perform SOME marriages.

          That is discrimination.

          What happens at a county clerk’s office that only has one person who can issue marriage licenses? Do you have to drive 100 miles to the next county over to get married?

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 6:18 pm

            If this occurs the Bill requires the District and Circuit Courts to pick up the slack until adjustments can be made. Any couples being affected will be “all” couples…no discrimination.

    • anewleaf

      June 11, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Look, nobody would accept a pig slaughterer, hired to slaughter pigs, who morally objected to harming pigs. Nobody would pay them to sit on their hands not doing their job. They’d need to go find a different job, one that doesn’t compromise their moral objections.

      You are hired to approve legal marriages, do your job. You are hired to dispense medicine according to a doctor’s orders, do your job. You are hired to run a hospital to provide medical services to the public, do your job. Don’t sit on your hands taking money (PUBLIC money in many cases) for not doing your job. Does anybody stop you from having those objections? No.

      And get your fake moral objections off the lawn: http://www.flowerhorne.com/blo

      • Chuck

        June 11, 2015 at 3:25 pm

        Bad analogy…performing marriages is but a small part of a magistrates
        duties. Those that recuse will simply be assigned more of the many other
        duties and more marriages will be performed by those who do not opt
        out. The Bill requires that “all” marriages be performed.

        • anewleaf

          June 11, 2015 at 3:30 pm

          Nice try. Sorry man, being a jerk is not a protected class like disability. Your employer has every right to fire you if you want to pick and choose which duties of your job you deign worthy of your moral compass.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 6:24 pm

            Again, it is the Employer that is doing this….hello.

        • Ninja0980

          June 11, 2015 at 3:33 pm

          If you can’t do all parts of your job, find another one.

          • Chuck

            June 11, 2015 at 5:43 pm

            Well, I’m sorry, but Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, EEOC rulings and Scotus rulings say differently. You do believe in following the law, don’t you?

    • Paul Linxwiler

      June 11, 2015 at 2:57 pm

      You’re confusing public officials with private business owners. The former have an obligation to serve the public — all of it.

      • Chuck

        June 11, 2015 at 4:51 pm

        The Bill requires that “all” marriages be performed and SSM couples are to receive the same “service” as any other couple. Try reading and understanding the Bill.

      • Chuck

        June 11, 2015 at 5:58 pm

        Wrong again Paul, Title VII covers “governments and governmental agencies”.

  6. Carol

    June 11, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Wish I could LIKE this a million times! Finally a legislature that is willing to stand up for the people who elected them!

    • Doh!

      June 11, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Bigots?

    • anewleaf

      June 11, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      Because same sex couples are not people who live in places. Nice.

  7. CatinTx

    June 11, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    What a legacy of hate republicans across the country are creating. Very sad to see the America they miss and long for reappear in new age Jim Crow laws.

  8. Paul Linxwiler

    June 11, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    This will be declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in about 10 seconds.
    Don’t worry: North Carolina will obey. Southern conservatives always buckle under the weight of federal court orders … or federal troops.

    • Chuck

      June 11, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Hogwash, it is perfectly legal and not unconstitutional and most lawyers
      agree on that. The potential downfall is that is causes unreasonable
      delay, but even the, since the delay will be foe all couples, not just
      SSM couples, even that occurrence may not be against the law. The
      proposed Bill comports with Title VII of the Civil rights Act as well as
      EEOC and Scotus rulings dealing with “religious accommodations” by
      Employers.

  9. James Moya

    June 11, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    The courts are supposed to be impartial. If religious views dictate your rulings than you should not be practicing law. If you want to be a conscientious objector, don’t go into civil service. Because now that law can be expanded to say, “Im a bigot, I refuse to use my government authority to help [insert race here] or [insert gender here] or [insert religion here] because it goes against my philosophies.” If you are incapable of making a neutral decision without referring to your own religious doctrine, than you should not be in any position of authority. This clearly violates the SCOTUS doctrine of separation of church and state and the 14th amendment by willfully giving the option to discriminate against several distinct classes of people.

    • Chuck

      June 11, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Hogwash, it is perfectly legal and not unconstitutional and most lawyers agree on that. The potential downfall is that is causes unreasonable delay, but even the, since the delay will be foe all couples, not just SSM couples, even that occurrence may not be against the law. The proposed Bill comports with Title VII of the Civil rights Act as well as EEOC and Scotus rulings dealing with “religious accomodations” by Employers.

      • James Moya

        June 15, 2015 at 5:07 am

        Hogwash? Every state has a code of judicial conduct. This law violates the integrity of the North Carolina’s judicial code of conduct by order of the State Supreme Court as follows:

        violates Canon 1
        violates Canon 2A and 2B
        violates Canon 3A(1), 3A(3), 3B(2), 3B(4)
        violates Canon 4A
        violates Canon 5A

        These are major ethics violations and inhibits the justice system from carrying out fair and impartial treatment under the law, as well as all public civil servants under order from the judiciary to execute court orders, including issuing marriage licenses. Abstention based on religious beliefs is unethical conduct which coincides with the State Supreme Court’s own doctrine regarding impartiality to the law.

        Arizona passed a similar law 2 months ago and a week after it’s passing, it was overruled by the State Supreme Court for violating judicial codes of conduct and the State Ethics Committee agreed. It is only a matter of a few weeks before the the State Supreme Court in North Carolina invalidates the bill on the same principles and precedence.

        • Chuck

          June 15, 2015 at 6:37 pm

          Sorry James, there is no Law against a State Judiciary changing a magistrates named duties. Since the magistrates that opt out will not be performing “any” marriages, there is no violation of the Code of Ethics. I am unaware of similar legislation in AZ, but if you care to cite the case I’d be interested.

  10. Chuck

    June 11, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    The Bill appears to be perfectly legal and Constitutional. It comports with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as EEOC and Scotus rulings. It does not allow for discrimination of SSM couples. If you don’t believe this, try reading the law and making an intelligent response. No more demagoguery, please.

  11. Tim Fx

    June 11, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    WAKE THE F&#K UP PEOPLE. As long and ANYONES rights are not secure, YOURS can be taken away too! They ALREADY HAVE BEEN IN NORTH CAROLINA.

    NO ONE is holding a gun to their heads to take or make them stay at their jobs. IF Their Moral/Religious Beliefs preclude them from CIVIC duty, and they refuse to perform them, they should be not be hired for the position, or terminated if they refuse to perform the responsibilities of the job. Issuance of Marriage licenses are a CIVIC Duty in this country.

    What happens when a JEWISH doctor at a County Hospital, decides not to treat a Gentile, Buddhists Muslim, or any of the “NON CHOSEN PEOPLE” (yes, there ARE Jews who feel this way) who comes in with a bullet wound to the head… or a JEWISH or other Child with a 106* fever, and the Doctors feels that children out of wedlock OR NOT being Jewish is against his/her religious belief?

    What if the black lady behind the counter holds to another awful stereotype and decides that she’s not going to stand for one more white woman, marrying “A perfectly good black man” (Thereby taking him away from another Black Woman) and says Interracial Marriage is against her beliefs? She may now deny that license…. WHAT IF a GAY PERSON who goes to MCC church is the one issuing Marriage licenses, and he/she decides that YOUR STRAIGHT CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE is against His/Her religious beliefs…. THIS LAW ALLOWS YOU TO BE DENIED YOUR LICENSE.What happens when the clerk is Agnostic, or a Satanist, and denies ANYONE who practices another religion. YES, THEY CAN NOW DO THIS BY VIRTUE OF THIS LAW!!!!!

    EVEN IF YOU ARE IN FAVOR OF THIS HORRIFIC LAW, you MUST understand that YOUR RIGHTS AND FREEDOM were taken away with this law.

    • Chuck

      June 11, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      Wow, mindless ranting. Yes they could have been fired, but the Employer chooses to retain them by providing a “religious accommodation”. What “rights” were taken away? None. The Bill requires all marriages to be performed for all couples. This Bill does not allow a license to be denied. Churches don’t issue licenses. If the “black lady behind the counter” has a sincere religious belief, under this Bill she can recuse in which case she will be issuing no licenses to anyone. Try reading the Bill before spewing you demagoguery.

  12. Apollonia

    June 12, 2015 at 4:04 am

    Since these people are so concerned with “sincer believes” there should be a law protecting people to be forced to lecture women to drive …
    And don’t forget that the members of IS, AlKaida, … have all “sincer believes2, so we should nont fight them but support them, like this bill does.

  13. marcpaige

    June 12, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    This bill will allow a magistrate to refuse heterosexual marriages, too, like if a Catholic magistrate feels that performing the marriage of a divorced person goes against their religious beliefs. It is broad, discriminatory, un-Constitutional and dangerous.

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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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