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Buttigieg says he has no regrets about coming out later in life

‘It’s hard for me to kind of picture alternate universes’

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(Washington Blade photo by Chris Johnson)

MASON CITY, Iowa — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the gay candidate beating expectations in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, said Monday he doesn’t regret coming out later in life, asserting “there’s not a lot to be gained” by rethinking the issue.

“I guess my life would be very different,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t know if it’d be better or worse. You’re just — you’re ready when you’re ready. I suppose if dating had been available to me in my 20s I might not have done a lot of the other things I wound up doing. But there’s, there’s not a lot to be gained trying to rewind and guess what otherwise would have been.”

Buttigieg made the comments in response to a question from the Washington Blade on his campaign bus tour over the weekend in Iowa, where reporters, including the Blade, were embedded with him. Recent polls in Iowa indicate he’s a top-tier candidate competing with Joseph Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. 

Reporters asked Buttigieg a range of questions — both personal and policy-based — in between his appearances at rallies and other events in the state. On the final day of his tour en route to a meet-and-greet event in Britt, Iowa, media outlets, including the Blade, pressed the candidate on his coming out process.

One reporter opened up the questioning by asking Buttigieg if he wouldn’t be running for president if he hadn’t come out how and when he did. In June 2015, Buttigieg — at the age of 33 — came out as gay in an essay for the South Bend Tribune titled “Why Coming Out Matters” a few months before he was up for re-election as mayor.

“It’s hard for me to kind of picture alternate universes,” Buttigieg replied. “But I’m running for president because of what is needed right now, and that’s mainly about vision. And if I saw another candidate offering what I was offering, I would probably be following that, not leading. But I don’t know that that would be different if I weren’t gay. You know my story is part of me, and it’s all part of the same person — and therefore part of the same picture — but where I think America needs to go isn’t about me, it’s about America.”

The Blade followed up on that question by asking Buttigieg about whether he missed an opportunity to impact LGBT acceptance in Indiana by waiting to come out until later.

After all, just months before Buttigieg’s essay was published, Indiana was ground zero in the LGBT rights movements. Then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that enabled sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the state.

As the Blade pointed out, Pence signed the law in April 2015, then was forced to sign a “fix” to the measure in May 2015 amid a media frenzy and widespread condemnation from the business community and LGBT rights supporters.

Although Buttigieg kept quiet about his sexual orientation until one month after Pence signed the “fix,” the candidate said he “didn’t miss any opportunity to make an impact.”

“I was one of the leading voices to push back on it,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t know what would have happened if I had come out in the middle of that, but I’m guessing it would have been more about me and less about why the policy was terrible.”

Buttigieg added his advocacy against the law was more effective in his capacity as mayor of South Bend as opposed to a newly out gay man. The decision on coming out, Buttigieg said, was personal and unrelated to making any kind of impact on public policy.

“I reached this very personal decision,” Buttigieg said. “And frankly kind of resented the fact that it was going to have to be, you know, it would have anything to do with politics in the outside world, but I was also realistic about the fact that I was in a visible, leadership elected position.”

In making the decision to come out a few months before his re-election, Buttigieg said he had to think about whether it would imperil his position as mayor and his platform to speak, “especially when I found myself as a leading Indiana elected voice against Pence’s anti-LGBT law.”

(Despite Buttigieg’s assertion he was a leading voice against the law, a report in the Associated Press concluded he hedged that criticism with efforts to collaborate with Pence in his capacity as governor. At the time, Buttigieg was critical of state lawmakers over the religious freedom law and tweeted he was “disappointed” with Pence, but several weeks later attended a Pence event in South Bend.)

Nonetheless, Buttigieg has been a favorite in the LGBT community, which has helped propel him to become the first openly gay candidate being taken seriously in a presidential race. Gay donors excited to see Buttigieg succeed are a significant contribution to the impressive fundraising numbers regularly posted by his campaign.

Buttigieg, asked by a reporter on the campaign bus how his decision to come out helped his political career, said he would leave it to analysts to talk about the impact, but said it has helped him empathize with other communities.

“You don’t have to think you’ve been in somebody’s shoes, you don’t have to pretend there’s an equivalency between what you’ve been though and what somebody else has been through to tap into, and what somebody else has been through to tap into your own story to relate, or as propulsion to support somebody,” Buttigieg said. “And I suppose being gay is not the only way I felt that, but it’s the most powerful.”

Given Buttigieg came out at the age of 33, when other LGBT people — even his own age — had come out earlier and made contributions to the LGBT movement, the Blade asked the candidate whether he thinks he’d bring the experience of activists who had fought for LGBT rights to the White House.

“Everyone’s experience is different, right?” Buttigieg replied. “So, what I will say is that if I’m elected president, it would be a new thing in America, and it’ll be a step in America’s LGBTQ experience. Again, even within the LGBTQ community, there’s so much diversity. It’s not like I know anything personally about what it’s like to be a trans woman of color, other than, again, I think I have a reserve of empathy I can tap into.”

When another reporter asked about Iowa voters who say they’re unconcerned with his sexual orientation, but think it may be an impediment to others, Buttigieg said “way too many layers of convolution get added on to these things.”

“You got to vote for the person who you think is going to make the best president, and my job is to explain why I’d be the best president,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg said voters should focus on candidates with whom they connect “instead of psyching ourselves out trying to get ourselves into the hands of people that are different from us and guess how they might vote.”

“If something moves you, or inspires you, that’s the best evidence that’s going to move or inspire someone else,” Buttigieg said.

Pressed on the issue, Buttigieg brought up similar concerns made years ago about whether Barack Obama would be successful as a black candidate running for the White House.

“I remember a lot of conversation from folks in ’07,” Buttigieg said. “Folks would say, ‘I’m ready, I’m ready for sure for a historic president, but I’m just not sure the world is.’”

Pointing out Obama’s eventual success, Buttigieg said the lesson he draws from that is not to “outsmart ourselves” by worrying about electability in a candidate with positive attributes.

Buttigieg’s sexual orientation has also come up in recent news reports following polls that show some black voters in the South, who overwhelmingly support Biden, find Buttigieg’s sexual orientation a barrier to supporting him.

Late last month, The State, a South Carolina-based newspaper, published a memo on internal Buttigieg campaign focus groups indicating black voters in South Carolina find the candidate’s sexual orientation a barrier to supporting him. Additional stories were published in Politico and the New York Times to the same effect. 

Asked about the reporting by the Blade, Buttigieg said he doesn’t think his sexual orientation “has to be an obstacle” for black voters.

“I don’t think that it has to be an obstacle, and I get where all that comes from, and there’s a clearly a life journey within a lot of church communities, and a lot of generational dynamics,” Buttigieg said. 

Despite the continued percolation of the issue, Buttigieg said he thinks he can deliver for black voters based on his policy positions, which include a “Douglas Plan” to rectify racial injustice.

“But in the end, I think voters, and in particular black voters who have felt both abused by the Republican Party, but also taken for granted by the Democratic Party, they just wanna know if there are going to be results,” Buttigieg said. “And if I can demonstrate that, then a lot of the other stuff falls away.”

Asked by the Blade whether the internal focus group published by the State was an authorized leak, Buttigieg denied that was the case. In response to another reporter’s question about whether similar focus groups were commissioned in other states, Buttigieg said he’ll “let others talk to focus group stuff.” 

Bolstering the credence of this reporting Sunday was Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who said there was “no question” Buttigieg’s sexual orientation could hurt his popularity among black voters, particularly those who are older. Sen. Kamala Harris, responding to this reporting, denounced the idea black voters are less accepting of LGBT people as a “trope,” although she said that wasn’t directly in response to Clyburn.

Buttigieg also made the case black voters should take a careful look at Biden’s record. In response to a separate question from the Blade on whether black voters are giving Biden a pass for his vote in the 1990s on the crime bill, Buttigieg identified the vote as a “concern” — despite the overwhelming support for it at the time, including in the black community — and said Biden’s record should be examined.

“I think that the more we have a chance to debate our records and our visions, the more that is a concern,” Buttigieg said. “The crime bill led to a lot more incarceration in this country, and from my perspective, in a place like South Bend, we’ve seen the effect of now a new generation of kids who have experienced a traumatic event, like the incarceration of a parent. I think it’s worsened by the crime bill, so I do think the debate of that record is going to be important of our country.”

When another reporter brought up Biden’s lead on bankruptcy legislation, Buttigieg stopped short of making the same criticism, but said it’s “really problematic in the ways in which bankruptcy has or has not been accessible to people.”

Jamal Brown, national press secretary for the Biden campaign, said in response to Buttigieg’s comments on the crime bill “the mayor got it wrong.”

“Crime was a major epidemic impacting communities of color in the early 1990s,” Brown said. “That’s why most of the Congressional Black Caucus supported Vice President Biden’s efforts as well as African-American clergy and mayors across the country who wanted safer streets. As a result, the violent crime rate was cut in half.”

Brown added Biden has proposed further reforms to address racial inequities in the justice system.

“Building on the Vice President’s efforts to reform the criminal justice system, our campaign recently released a plan to address racial disparities, ensure black and brown parents feel confident when their children are safe walking the streets of America and restore trust between police and citizens in communities like Ferguson and South Bend,” Brown said.  

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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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