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Pope’s gay friend speaks out

Grassi says Francis will make big changes in ‘small steps’

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Yayo Grassi, gay news, Washington Blade
Yayo Grassi, gay news, Washington Blade

Yayo Grassi, a friend of the Pope, says Francis wrote to him, saying, ‘In my pastoral work there is no place for homophobia.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Yayo Grassi, a native of Argentina, has known and admired Pope Francis since the future pontiff was his high school teacher at a Catholic school in a city about 200 miles north of Buenos Aires.

Grassi, 67, told the Washington Blade in an interview at his home in D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood on Tuesday that he never imagined his friendship with the Pope would become the subject of international headlines.

He has been besieged with requests for media interviews since news surfaced that he and his boyfriend of 19 years met with Francis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington on Sept. 23 during the Pope’s visit to the United States.

According to Grassi, who owns a D.C.-based catering business, he initially struggled over whether to talk to the media about what he considered a private matter. But he said he decided to go public about his Washington visit with the Pope after news surfaced the previous week that Francis met with Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who a judge sent to jail for refusing on religious grounds to approve marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

“One of the things that upset me extremely and profoundly was that people who were so much in love with this Pope immediately turned against him” after learning about his reported meeting with Davis, said Grassi.

“And I was telling my friends how can you forget everything this guy did? How can we forget these things for something that this woman said that we don’t even know is true or not?”

Grassi was referring to a statement released by the Vatican saying the Pope didn’t personally invite Davis to meet with him in Washington, that she was part of a larger group of people the Pope greeted briefly at a reception at the Vatican Embassy, and that Davis’s participation in the meeting was not intended to be an endorsement of various actions she has taken related to same-sex marriage.

In a development that surprised some Vatican observers, the same Vatican statement disclosed that “the only real audience granted by the Pope” at the Vatican Embassy during his Washington trip “was with one of his former students and his family,” the Washington Post reported.

Grassi told the Blade on Tuesday that a New York Times reporter identified him as the former student and quickly called him for comment.

“I said you can understand that this comes completely out of the sky,” Grassi recounted. “I said, ‘Can you give me 10 to 15 minutes to think about it?’ And he said absolutely. We’ll call you after 15 minutes.”

During that brief time Grassi said he quickly came to the conclusion that the Pope was being unfairly blamed for helping to support Kim Davis and the marriage equality opponents that had rallied around her.

“So I thought it is my friend who is being attacked,” he said. “The least I can do is defend him with the facts that I know. I don’t have to lie. All I have to do is tell exactly what happened.”

Among the things he told the Times and other media outlets, including the Blade, is that this was the second time he and his boyfriend had met with Francis since Francis was elected Pope in 2013.

Grassi told the Blade that when he informed the newly installed Pope that he and his boyfriend would be in Italy to attend a wedding for a friend that year Francis immediately invited them to greet him at a group ceremony in Saint Peter’s Square.

In front of hundreds of people “I remember Francis walking toward me with his arms open and he said, ‘You made it. You make me so happy,’” Grasso recalls. “And so we hugged and I introduced him to my boyfriend and we exchanged some words.”

Grassi told the Blade he first renewed his friendship with then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope, in 2008 when he visited Buenos Aires and met with Bergoglio, who held the title of Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Francis responded to an email message Grassi sent to the Pope this past June asking if the two could meet to catch up on things during the Pope’s visit to Washington – only if the pontiff had the time to do so.

“And he replied back almost immediately – I think the same day or the following day saying ‘oh, absolutely, I want to see you,’” Grassi said.

He said Francis told him in his email reply that Grassi should write back in early September when the Pope’s Washington schedule would be known and final arrangements could be made for their meeting. But Grassi said that when he saw media reports this summer of how busy the Pope would be in Washington he wrote back saying he would fully understand it if Francis would be too busy to meet with him.

Then, to his astonishment, about three weeks before he was scheduled to arrive in Washington Francis called Grassi by phone.

“It was my cell phone and I thought it was a joke,” Grassi said. “I was absolutely surprised that this person called me Obdulio,” the nickname that his high school teacher Bergoglio gave him nearly 50 years earlier.

“So I said who’s calling? And he said well who else calls you Obdulio?” said Grassi, who added, “Then I knew this is the real thing…And we had a 10- or 15-minute conversation. We talked about politics. We talked about President Obama. We talked about Cuba.”

Before the call ended Francis insisted he would have the time to meet with Grassi in Washington, according to Grassi. When Grassi mentioned that he would rather the Pope meet with four of his friends, some of whom were having health problems, so the Pope could bless them, Francis said, “Bring them with you.”

One of the friends captured the visit on video with her phone, which dozens of news media outlets have shown, including a scene where the Pope hugs Grassi and kisses Grassi’s boyfriend on both cheeks while displaying a broad smile.

“To me it was a meeting with a friend of mine,” Grassi said. “It was a meeting between two friends…who love each other and I admire him deeply. That would have been the end of the story and I wouldn’t have you here sitting in my kitchen if it wasn’t that this lady Kim Davis came out with this information saying she got a private audience with him,” he told the Blade.

Like others who have defended Francis, Grassi said he believes Francis was “fooled” into agreeing to include Davis among the group that he greeted during the Vatican Embassy visit.

Concerning reports that the Pope has been a longtime opponent of same-sex marriage and opposed a same-sex marriage law passed by Argentina’s Congress in 2010, Grassi said he and then Cardinal Bergoglio discussed the gay marriage issue in an email exchange at that time.

“In 2010 when the Congress in Argentina was debating the marriage equality law I read in the news that he had said quite strong and negative things about gay marriage,” Grassi said. “I was extremely surprised when I saw that,” he said. “So I fired an email to him explaining to him how much I owed him, what an important person he was in my life, how much he developed my most progressive thoughts in my life and that I was disappointed to hear that he was saying these negative things about gay people and about gay marriage.”

Added Grassi, “It was a pretty long letter. And I mentioned my boyfriend by name and told him at that time we were 14 years together.”

Bergoglio, less than three years before becoming Pope, responded with a “beautiful reply – a very loving reply,” Grassi said.

“He started by apologizing because he had hurt me, because I was hurt,” said Grassi. “And immediately after that he said I have never said any of those things that the press is publishing about me,” Grassi recalls.

“He said as a matter of fact he never expressed himself about this question. And he ended up by saying something that to me is so important,” said Grassi. “He said believe me, in my pastoral work there is no place for homophobia.”

Some gay activists in Argentina would likely take exception to Francis’s comments to Grassi in that 2010 email. At the time Francis was elected Pope, a prominent Argentinean gay leader told the Blade that media outlets had obtained a copy of a letter that then Cardinal Bergoglio wrote to four Argentine monasteries at the time the national Congress was debating the gay marriage law.

According to media reports, Bergoglio stated in his letter that the proposed law was “the work of the devil,” it would “spark God’s war,” and was a “machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Grassi moved to the United States in 1978 at a time when a military-run dictatorship was ruling Argentina and persecuting LGBT people. He said he admires gay activists in Argentina and the U.S.

He said one of the reasons he chose to stay in the U.S. rather than live in Europe, where he initially thought he would end up, was the 1978 encounter he had with then-D.C. mayoral candidate Marion Barry at the Dupont Circle gay bar Mr. P’s.

“I was there with some friends and suddenly this tall black guy comes in with a lady and does a speech to the people there on P Street,” Grassi recalls. “So I asked one of my friends, who’s that? And he said he is running for mayor and his name is Marion Barry and that’s his wife.”

“And I remember it was to me the most revealing to think that that there was this country where somebody who was running for mayor would try to get the support of gay people and would actually walk into a gay bar with his wife and ask people for their support and say if you support me I will protect you and I will fight to do positive things for you,” Grassi said.

With that as a backdrop, Grassi said he understands where gay activists are coming from concerning the Pope. But he cautions them about the resistance he says Francis is facing as he deals with a 2,000-year-old institution. He said he believes Francis is making a genuine effort to change the church for the better for LGBT people and other oppressed peoples.

“What I can say is we have to recognize the small steps that Pope Francis has taken and that considering the place where he comes from are actually giant steps,” Grassi said. “It’s not that the man does not want to do it. He has a timing for things. He has a way of saying things that are so extraordinary and making them with small steps.”

Pope Francis, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis created a stir after meeting Kim Davis but it turned out he spent more time with an old gay friend who lives in D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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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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