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Equality Act set for reintroduction on Tuesday

Comprehensive LGBT bill would amend Civil Rights Act

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Equality Act, gay news, Washington Blade
Equality Act, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) speaks at the press conference introducing the Equality Act on July 23, 2015 in the LBJ Room of the U.S. Senate. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Comprehensive legislation seeking to ban discrimination against LGBT people in all areas of civil rights law is set for reintroduction in Congress on Tuesday, according to two Capitol Hill sources familiar with the legislation.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are set to reintroduce the Equality Act in their respective chambers of Congress on Tuesday at 11 am in the Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol, the sources said.

First introduced in the previous Congress, the legislation isn’t expected to change from its previous iteration. The bill had sought to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act to bar anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, credit, education and federal programs.

The bill also sought to update federal law to include gender in the list of protected classes in public accommodations. Moreover, the Equality Act had to sought to expand the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, transportation services and health care services.

David Stacy, director of government affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is a necessary tool to combat anti-LGBT discrimination.

“LGBTQ people face unfair and unjust discrimination just because of who they are, with few explicit legal protections in place,” Stacy said. “As lawmakers in states around the country target LGBTQ people for discrimination, it is even more critical that Congress pass a clear federal law to ensure LGBTQ people are fully protected by our nation’s civil rights laws.”

It remains to be seen which lawmakers will co-sponsor the legislation. In the previous Congress, only members of the Democratic caucuses were co-sponsors upon introduction. Although former Rep. Robert Dold and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) joined as co-sponsors in the House and former Sen. Mark Kirk joined as a co-sponsor in the Senate, only Ros-Lehtinen remains in Congress after last year’s election (the other two Republicans lost their races).

For the Senate version of the bill this time around, a Senate aide said no Republican co-sponsors are expected upon introduction of the Equality Act.

The legislation will almost certainly not move after introduction in the Republican-controlled Congress under the Trump administration. Although President Obama came to support the legislation in the previous Congress, it sought no movement other than at one least unsuccessful attempt from Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) to amend the bill to other legislation.

The bill is seen as a counterweight to the First Amendment Defense Act, federal legislation seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have said they reintroduce the legislation, but haven’t yet done so in this Congress.

President Trump is unlikely to support the legislation given anti-LGBT actions from the administration, such as reversal of Obama-era guidance protecting transgender kids from discrimination in school and ensuring they have access to school restroom consistent with gender identity. The administration justified that move by saying the issue belongs to the states, not the federal government.

However, 17 years ago, Trump said in an interview with The Advocate he likes the idea of amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation, which is a core component of the Equality Act. Trump hasn’t explicitly addressed whether that remains his position during his presidential campaign or since the time has occupied the White House.

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Two arrested for lesbian couple’s murder, dismemberment in Mexico border city

Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez killed earlier this month

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From left: Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez</strong. (Photo via Facebook)

Two people have been arrested in connection with the murder and dismemberment of a lesbian couple in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez.

The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday announced authorities arrested a 25-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man and charged them with aggravated femicide.

Authorities on Jan. 16 found the dismembered body parts of Julissa Ramírez and Nohemí Medina Martínez in plastic bags that had been placed along the Juárez-El Porvenir Highway. The Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office in a press release notes the suspects murdered Ramírez and Medina in a house in Ciudad Juárez’s San Isidro neighborhood on Jan. 15.

Ciudad Juárez, which is located in Mexico’s Chihuahua state, is across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

Members of Comité de la Diversidad Sexual de Chihuahua, a local LGBTQ rights group, and Chihuahua Gov. María Eugenia Campos Galván are among those who have expressed outrage over the women’s murders. Activists have also urged local and state authorities to investigate whether the murder was a hate crime based on Ramírez and Medina’s sexual orientation.

Local media reports said nine women — including Ramírez and Medina — were killed in Ciudad Juárez from Jan. 1-15.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Virginia

Two anti-LGBTQ bills die in Va. Senate

Democrats maintain 21-19 majority in chamber

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two anti-LGBTQ bills died in the Virginia Senate on Thursday.

A Senate Education subcommittee voted against state Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County)’s Senate Bill 20, which would have eliminated the requirement that school districts must implement the Virginia Department of Education’s transgender and non-binary student guidelines.

The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee in an 8-7 vote tabled state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 177, a religious freedom measure that critics contend would have allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing.

Virginia’s statewide nondiscrimination law includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Peake’s bill would have removed “the provision of the exemption for religious organizations under the Virginia Fair Housing Law that denies such exemption where the membership in such religion is restricted on account of race, color, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, or disability.”

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office three days later.

Democrats, who maintain a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, have vowed to block any anti-LGBTQ bill.

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