February 22, 2021 at 3:11 pm EST | by Kevin Naff
A moderate Republican is still a Republican
Mitt Romney, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade
Sen. Mitt Romney (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

There’s a lot of talk about unity these days. Joe Biden ran on a pledge to unify the country after four years of Donald Trump exploiting every fault line to divide Americans and turn us against each other.

But if unity means rolling over to appease fake moderates like Sen. Mitt Romney, then count me out.

Romney, who voted to convict Trump after his impeachment trial, quickly reverted to type, telling the Blade he would oppose the Equality Act, which is expected to see a House vote this week. This is the same Romney who once vowed to be better on gay rights than his opponent Ted Kennedy in 1994. At the time, Romney said he would not only back the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation to ban anti-gay discrimination in employment, but “if possible broaden [it] to include housing and credit,” as the Blade reported.

Now Romney appears to be siding with Sen. Rand Paul’s malicious transphobic attacks during Education Secretary-designate’s Miguel Cardona’s confirmation hearing in which he said transgender participation in sports amounts to allowing boys in girls events and was “bizarre.”

“He made a very, very good point,” Romney said. “I’ve got pictures of my eight granddaughters, amongst some grandsons, behind me. They shouldn’t be competing with people who are physiologically in an entirely different category.”

With Romney’s no vote, it will be harder, if not impossible, for supporters of the bill to find 10 GOP votes to end a filibuster.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the only Republican Equality Act co-sponsor in the previous Congress, is reportedly angry at the Human Rights Campaign for endorsing her Democratic opponent last year, per the Blade’s reporting. Collins has refused multiple Blade inquiries about her position on the bill this year. So another so-called GOP moderate is playing coy about the bill. Remember, this “moderate” voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court amid credible accusations of sexual assault.

Another name that comes up a lot in Democratic vote-counting fantasies is Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who announced he will not run for re-election. Portman has a gay son so his vote should be a given, yet, it’s not. Portman harshly criticized former President Trump over the Capitol riot, yet voted to acquit him in the Senate. Even “moderate” Republicans not standing for re-election refuse to do the right thing. As others have noted, there simply aren’t 17 backbones in the Senate Republican caucus. They won’t oppose Trump and they won’t take a stand on anti-LGBTQ discrimination and push for the Equality Act’s passage.

In the face of all this flip-flopping and hand-wringing over easy, obvious choices, Democrats will need to learn how to play hard ball to accomplish anything substantive. But those efforts took a hit too, after Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said they’d vote to reject an effort to do away with the filibuster. Neither Sinema nor Manchin’s office responded to the Blade’s requests for comment on the Equality Act.

As usual, Democrats risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They must act decisively to combat COVID, reform immigration laws, confront racial inequities, protect LGBTQ workers, among other priorities, if they are to preserve their coalition and hold onto power. The Republicans may be in the minority, but only barely. They gained seats in the House and could retake that chamber next year. They are at a 50-50 tie in the Senate and their racist, criminal presidential candidate won more votes in 2020 than in 2016. The Republicans are not as weak and in disarray as some wishful thinkers among the political commentary class seem to think.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

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