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Top 10 international stories of 2016

Obama visits Cuba; Trudeau marches for LGBT rights

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Human Rights Day, gay news, Washington Blade
international LGBT news stories, gay news, Washington Blade

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Truedau marches in Montreal Pride; Bangladeshi activist Xulhaz Mannan murdered; President Barack Obama meets with LGBT activists in Cuba are among the top international stories in LGBT news in 2016. (Trudeau photo courtesy Trudeau’s office; Mannan photo courtesy Facebook; Washington Blade photo of Cuban activist Juana Mora by Michael K. Lavers)

Here’s a look back at the top 10 international LGBT news stories, as ranked by the Washington Blade’s editorial staff.

#10: Belize Supreme Court strikes down sodomy law

high_court_building_belize_insert_public_domain

Belize Supreme Court (Photo public domain)

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin of the Belize Supreme Court in August ruled his country’s colonial-era sodomy law is unconstitutional.

Caleb Orozco, a prominent LGBT rights advocate, and his group, the United Belize Advocacy Movement, challenged the law in 2010.

The Belizean government in September announced it plans to appeal a portion of Benjamin’s ruling. Orozco told the Blade that his case would have an impact throughout the English-speaking Caribbean.

“People are beginning to realize that it is possible to advance LGBT issues in the region,” he said.

#9: Prominent activist murdered in Bangladesh

Xulhaz Mannan, gay news, Washington Blade

Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent Bangladeshi LGBT activist, was hacked to death in April. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

The murder of a prominent LGBT activist in Bangladesh in April sparked outrage around the world.

A group of men hacked Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy to death inside an apartment building in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on April 25.

Mannan launched Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine in 2014. He worked for the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka for eight years before joining the U.S. Agency for International Development last September.

President Obama expressed his condolences to Mannan’s family. USAID and the State Department also paid tribute to him.

Ansar-al-Islam, the Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the murders. Islamists have killed several secular academics, writers, bloggers and members of religious minority groups in the predominantly Muslim country since early 2015.

#8: Brexit vote could impact LGBT rights

A referendum on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union passed in June.

The results of the so-called Brexit referendum sparked concern among activists who said it could adversely impact LGBT asylum seekers.

“Many LGBT refugee and asylum seekers talking to me are worried about how they will be treated with this outcome,” Davis Mac-Iyalla, a gay Nigerian man who received asylum in the U.K., told the Blade from London after the vote.

The European Court of Justice, which is the European Union’s highest court, in 2013 ruled those who face incarceration in their countries of origin because of their sexual orientation could receive asylum in the U.K. and the bloc’s 27 other member states. The European Court of Justice in 2014 said countries within the European Union cannot require gay asylum seekers to prove their homosexuality.

The Brexit vote took place against the backdrop of an influx of refugees and migrants from Syria and other countries into Europe.

Then-Prime Minister David Cameron resigned in the wake of the vote.

#7: Colombia, FARC reach peace deal

Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia, gay news, Washington Blade

Colombian voters on Oct. 2, 2016, narrowly rejected a peace agreement between Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos‘s government and the FARC. (Photo by Antonio Cruz of Abr; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Colombian government and a rebel group in September signed an LGBT-inclusive peace deal that sought to end Latin America’s longest-running war.

President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño, commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, signed the accord during a ceremony in the Colombian city of Cartagena. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among the foreign dignitaries who attended the ceremony.

Representatives of two Colombian LGBT advocacy groups participated in the peace talks that began in Havana in 2012.

Colombian voters in October narrowly rejected the peace deal.

Santos and Londoño in November signed a revised agreement. The Colombian Congress ratified it on Nov. 30.

Lawmakers ratified the peace deal less than eight months after Colombia’s highest court ruled in favor of marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Two men from the city of Cali on May 24 became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in the country.

#6: UN calls on countries to decriminalize homosexuality

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A U.N. report urges countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. (Photo by sanjitbakshi; courtesy Flickr)

A report the U.N. released in October calls upon countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein notes in the 2015 report to the U.N. Human Rights Council that countries “that criminalize consensual homosexual acts are in breach of international human rights law.”

“These laws, by their mere existence, violate the rights to privacy and nondiscrimination,” it reads. “Arrests and the detention of individuals on charges relating to sexual orientation and gender identity — including offenses not directly related to sexual conduct, such as those pertaining to physical appearance or so-called ‘public scandal’ — are discriminatory and arbitrary.”

The report was released two months after the chief justice of the Belize Supreme Court ruled the country’s anti-sodomy law is unconstitutional.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than 70 countries.

#5: USAID bans anti-LGBT discrimination among contractors

The U.S. Agency for International Development in 2016 formally banned contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The rule formally took effect on Oct. 25. National Security Advisor Susan Rice made the announcement the following day at American University in Northwest D.C.

“It’s a major step toward ensuring that American assistance is provided in a fair and equitable manner,” said Rice.

USAID Administrator Gayle Smith described the new policy as an “important step forward for USAID and our partners, and ensures our inclusive approach to development will continue into the future.”

The new policy does not require contractors to extend nondiscrimination protections to employees of organizations abroad that receive U.S. funding. It also does not include USAID grantees.

#4: Justin Trudeau emerges as LGBT rights champ

Justin Trudeau, gay news, Washington Blade

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emerged as a leading LGBT rights supporter in 2016, marching in several Pride parades. (Photo courtesy of Trudeau’s office)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016 emerged as one of the world’s most prominent LGBT rights champions.

Trudeau this summer became the first Canadian prime minister to march in Pride parades in Montreal and Toronto. A gay man from Syria who received refugee status in Canada in 2014 was the grand marshal of Vancouver’s annual Pride parade in which Trudeau and members of his family participated in July.

Reports emerged in August that the Canadian government plans to apologize to those who were convicted of “gross indecency” before the government of Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 1969. Justin Trudeau in November announced he had named MP Randy Boissonnault as his special advisor on LGBT issues.

“We have made great strides in securing legal rights for the LGBTQ2 community in Canada — from enshrining equality rights in the Charter to the passage of the Civil Marriage Act,” said Justin Trudeau in a statement.

Transgender Canadians remain vulnerable to discrimination and hate crimes in spite of Justin Trudeau’s support of LGBT-specific issues.

#3: Pope Francis sends mixed signals on LGBT issues

earthquakes, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis (Photo by Jeffrey Bruno; courtesy Wikimedia)

Pope Francis in 2016 continued to send mixed signals in terms of LGBT issues.

The pontiff in June said the Roman Catholic Church should “ask forgiveness” from gay people over the way it has treated them.

A Vatican official in November criticized a priest who said civil unions and other “human sins” caused the two earthquakes that killed nearly 300 people in central Italy earlier this year. Francis earlier this year accepted the resignation of a cardinal who repeatedly used homophobic slurs to describe gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy in December released a statement in which the church reaffirmed its ban on gay men in the priesthood. LGBT rights groups in 2016 also criticized Francis over his comments on marriage and gender.

#2: ISIS continues persecution of gay Syrians and Iraqis

The so-called Islamic State continued to persecute gay Syrians and Iraqis in 2016.

ISIS militants in January reportedly threw a teenage boy who they accused of engaging in homosexuality from a roof in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor. They also reportedly executed another Syrian teenager in May by publicly stoning him.

Ayaz Shalal, a human rights activist from the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, told the Blade in August during an interview in D.C. that he was “terrified” when he read a New York Times article about ISIS executing people who were accused of sodomy.

Iraqi forces with the backing of the U.S. and other countries in October launched an offensive to retake the ISIS stronghold of Mosul. The militant group in 2016 lost territory it once held, but it nevertheless continued to pose a threat.

The gunman who killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., earlier this year pledged his allegiance to ISIS, even though there is no evidence it ordered him to carry out the massacre. Three suspected ISIS members in June reportedly planned to attack a transgender rights march in Istanbul.

#1 Obama meets Cuban LGBT activists in Havana

Juana Mora Cedeño, Havana, Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade

Juana Mora met with President Obama in Havana earlier this year. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

President Obama in March met with two Cuban LGBT rights advocates during his historic trip to the Communist island.

Juana Mora and Nelson Álvarez were among the members of Cuban civil society who met with Obama in Havana. Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and U.S. Chief of Mission Jeffrey DeLaurentis also attended the meeting.

Mora is a vocal critic of Cuban President Raúl Castro and his daughter, Mariela Castro, who promotes LGBT-specific issues on the island as director of the National Center for Sexual Education.

Mora and other independent Cuban LGBT rights advocates maintain they face harassment and even arrest. Maykel González Vivero, an independent journalist and LGBT activist, was detained for several days in October while covering the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in the city of Baracoa.

Obama in December 2014 announced the U.S. would begin the process of normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba. He is the first sitting American president to visit the Communist island since 1928.

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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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