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Advocates prepare for fight as anti-trans youth legislation advances in S.D.

ACLU is planning lawsuit to block enforcement of state law

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South Dakota, Pierre, gay news, Washington Blade
The South Dakota legislature is considering a bill to criminalize transition-related care for trans youth. (Photo by Dk4hb; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Transgender advocates are beginning to fret — and plan litigation — as a new kind of anti-trans legislation has begun to advance in state legislatures aimed at criminalizing transition-related care for trans youth, including one measure that is halfway to becoming law in South Dakota.

Introduced in more than a dozen states at the start of the legislative session this year, the anti-trans legislation was a major point of discussion at a transgender rights panel Tuesday in D.C. hosted by the American Constitution Society.

Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality said those bills — along with other measures seeking to inhibit participation of transgender kids in sports — represent anti-LGBTQ groups’ latest efforts to thwart LGBTQ rights after previous failures.

“Anti-LGBT groups realize that whatever they’re trying to scare people [with] lately is becoming less effective and so they find a new scary,” Tobin said. “After marriage equality became less effective as a thing to scare people about, I think it was trans people in general. That’s become a little bit less effective. It was bathrooms, and that’s become a little bit less effective, Now it’s, oh my gosh, trans young people in healthcare and trans people in sports.”

In South Dakota, the state House on Wednesday approved legislation known as House Bill 1057, which would criminalize providing transition-related care to youth, including puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery, making them a Class 1 felony. The penalty would be a maximum of a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

Since its introduction, the bill was amended to reduce its scope to youth under age 16 as opposed to all minors up to age 18, and the penalty was reduced from Class 4 felony to a Class 1 felony. The bill, nonetheless, still carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum $2,000 fine. (Tobin referred to the changes to the bill as “small tweaks that are trying to make it seem less awful.”)

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, commended the South Dakota lawmakers for passing the legislation in an email blast this week to supporters.

“At one time, using cross-sex hormones or performing gender reassignment surgery on minors was rare,” Perkins said. “Now, however, these procedures are also being done at younger and younger ages, making bills like HB 1057 urgent. Cross-sex hormones are associated with a higher risk of heart attacks and blood clots, infertility, loss of bone density, and sexual dysfunction.”

The legislation, introduced by State Rep. Fred Deutsch, passed in the South Dakota house by a vote of 46-23 and now heads to the state Senate, which already has plans to advance the bill. A committee hearing could happen as soon as this week, according to the Washington Post.

Alexis Chavez, medical director for the Trevor Project, condemned the passage of the legislation in a statement shortly after its passage.

“This bill actively contradicts evidence-based medical recommendations and restricts parents’ ability to support their child with best-practice care, which has been shown to decrease suicide risk,” Chavez said. “Medical decisions should be made between doctors and their families — politicians have no role in this intensely personal process.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, hasn’t indicated whether she will sign or veto it. The Blade has placed a request in with her office seeking comment.

If the South Dakota bill becomes law, anti-trans groups would likely see it as a roadmap to proceed in other states. To head that off, a major transgender rights campaign would likely emerge to convince Noem to veto the bill should it reach her desk.

“There are signs the playbook for post-North Carolina HB 2 is somewhat applicable here in that the South Dakota State Medical Association and Chamber of Commerce have both come out against that legislation, as has the American Medical Association,” Tobin said.

According to a list compiled by Human Rights Watch, more than a dozen bills that would criminalize providing transition-related care to transgender youth are pending before state legislatures.

Bills in Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire and South Dakota would criminalize the care, while legislation in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina would institute professional discipline, such as revocation of licenses. Lawmakers in Georgia, Texas and Utah have also signaled they’ll introduce similar legislation.

Because all these bills are similar, transgender advocates are looking to the usual suspects of anti-LGBTQ groups, such as the Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom, as their source.

Tobin pointed out Deutsch introduced the legislation in South Dakota after flying to D.C. on the taxpayers’ dime for a Heritage Foundation event on “the sexualization of children.”

“They had a panel all about how we have to stop kids from being trans because that somehow is the sexualization of children,” Tobin said. “And this state legislator — apparently several others — came home with this great idea that had been pitched to them at this conference panel, which was let’s make it a crime to provide health care to trans kids.”

Conservative pundits and lawmakers are whipping up support for the legislation by drawing on the recent spike in youth identifying as transgender and stories of youth who underwent a gender transition process, but later expressed regret over the decision. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control has revealed in a recent report puberty blockers can reduce suicide rates of transgender teens, who have high rates of suicidal ideation.

Sharita Gruberg, director of policy for LGBTQ research and communications at the Center for American Progress, said the lawmakers and anti-LGBTQ forces raising concerns are distorting the record.

“It’s always funny to me what the right thinks medical care looks like for trans people,” Gruberg said. “Like the idea that there are doctors who are prescribing surgical care for minors is a widespread thing is absurd, but I think that’s something that’s like latched on in the public imagination as like when we’re talking about what health care for trans youth looks like.”

Meanwhile in other states, including New Hampshire, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee and Washington State, legislation is pending that would restrict the ability of transgender kids to participate in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

Tobin said the sports bills have a unique way of eliciting sympathy because the public has assumptions of athletic performance based on sex, which is difficult to dissuade.

“People think that they understand the relationship between bodies and gender, and especially hormones,” Tobin said. “We talk about sex hormones, even though everyone’s body has testosterone, you can’t ovulate without testosterone, but we still call it a male sex hormone associated with maleness and more of it means you’re born male. We believe that it’s a primary factor in athletic performance across all the different sports that involve a huge variety of different physical skills, and the science doesn’t support that.”

Much of this anti-trans legislation seems based on a situation in Connecticut in which two transgender teens outperformed female athletes in a track event, which excluded the other racers from potential sports scholarships. Alliance Defending Freedom has spearheaded a complaint against the state athletic association in Connecticut, which the Department of Education has agreed to take up.

Gruberg pointed out the transgender athletes in Connecticut were black and girls behind the complaint are white, so race is in play.

“When we’re talking about integrating sports, these are similar arguments that have been made in the past,” Gruberg said. “I don’t want to erase the racial lens either that our opponents are using as they’re attacking trans people’s participation. There’s certain people — who counts as a woman, who is able to — has a lot of dimensions and they’re picking their spokespeople and the woman who placed eighth and could have placed sixth is also white.”

If all else fails and the bills become law, plans are already underway for litigation to enjoin the states from enforcing the anti-trans bills.

Chase Strangio, a transgender advocate and staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said litigation is being planned in South Dakota, which could be followed by other lawsuits.

“We are prepared to file suit in South Dakota should HB 1057 pass and get signed into law and will continue to assess litigation options in any state where a ban on gender affirming care is pending,” Strangio said. “These measures are a direct attack on the ability of transgender young people to survive and raise serious Equal Protection and Due Process concerns for young people and their parents. I have no doubt that any state that passes one of these laws will have to contend with significant litigation and legal liability on multiple fronts.”

But there’s no assurances the litigation would ultimately be successful in court, especially in the aftermath of President Trump remaking the judiciary with a record breaking number of Senate-confirmed conservative appointments.

At the ACS panel, the Blade asked whether there was any consideration to reaching out to lawmakers behind the bills to craft different legislation that would codify the process by which doctors prescribe transition-related care to youth, thereby allowing lawmakers to say they voted for a ban and trans advocates to say were able to codify the medical process.

Tobin, however, didn’t like that idea, pointing out states already have in place medical malpractice laws that cover a situation in which doctors violate best practices. Further, she said the proposal “is usually a non-starter” for sponsors of the bills pending before legislatures.

“That would be a bad idea, I think, the idea that you’re going to codify into law and especially with the criminal offense what the standard of care is rather than allow, as happens with the rest of the practice of medicine, the standards of care to evolve over time and be defined and updated by the different medical associations, and not have 57 jurisdictions have to update their codes every time clinical guidelines are updated and so forth,” Tobin said. “The Criminal Code is not a place where we should be defining the medical standard of care, we already have laws for that.”

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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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