With President Trump and other conservatives in strong opposition, the Equality Act is no nearer passage than it was before Democrats regained the House in the November 2018. A House vote will ensure that those voting for and against make a statement, but the Senate does not have the votes to pass it, and Trump would apparently veto it.
The Equality Act is a bill in the United States Congress that, if passed, would amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and the jury system.
The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus was established in 2008 by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the first out LGBTQ person ever elected to the Congress, then a House member, and former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). The caucus currently has 161 House members — all Democrats. The caucus now has the most members in its history, among them seven Pennsylvanians, including all four women elected in 2018.
Despite the volume of Caucus members, it will be 2021 — if Democrats hold the House and regain the Senate — before a chance comes to pass the bill that has, in one form or another, come before the Congress nearly every year since 1976. Not one Republican in Congress supports the Equality Act. On May 13, a senior Trump official said the president did not support the Equality Act.
During his 2016 campaign, Trump declared he would support the LGBTQ community. On June 14, 2016, two days after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which killed 49 people and wounded 51 others, Trump tweeted, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”
Trump was referencing the alleged affiliation between the Pulse shooter, Omar Mateen, and ISIS.
During his presidency Trump has instituted a ban against trans persons serving in the military, supported bathroom bills (after saying during his campaign that Caitlyn Jenner was welcome to use the bathrooms in the Trump Hotel), instructed his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to disallow discrimination cases based on sexual orientation or gender identity to be heard under Title VII and hired numerous members of the Family Research Council, an anti-gay hate group founded by the father of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has herself disallowed trans students’ use of bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity in the schools.
Trump has been a proponent of religious freedom laws that have targeted and discriminated against the LGBTQ community. At the CPAC conference in March, both Trump and Vice president Pence endorsed religious freedom bills.
According to a May 13 exclusive by the Washington Blade that has been reported on throughout mainstream media, the senior official said, “The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.”
This stance contravenes Trump’s earlier position when running for president as a Reform Party candidate in 2000. At that time Trump said, “I like the idea of amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include a ban of discrimination based on sexual orientation. It would be simple. It would be straightforward. We don’t need to rewrite the laws currently on the books, although I do think we need to address hate-crimes legislation. But amending the Civil Rights Act would grant the same protection to gay people that we give to other Americans — it’s only fair.”
Sen. Tammy Baldwin, one of two openly LGBTQ members of the Senate, told NBC News, “No American should be at risk of being fired, evicted from their home or denied services because of who they are or whom they love. The bipartisan Equality Act will move our country forward and the Trump administration’s opposition to it highlights how important it is to take back the White House in 2020.”
The Heritage Foundation, a renowned conservative think tank, claimed in a detailed statement on May 14 that the Equality Act would “force employers and workers to conform to new sexual norms or else lose their businesses and jobs.”
In a statement, Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of the national LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, said Trump’s opposition to the Equality Act “further cements his administration’s legacy of being the most anti-LGBTQ government in recent memory. LGBTQ Americans will not forget the President’s politically craven flip-flop on this fair and just legislation.”
Evangelical leader and Trump supporter Rev. Pat Robertson said May 14 while discussing the Equality Act on his TV show on the Christian Broadcasting Network that the law would be “a devastating blow to religious freedom and to the sanctity of America. If you want to bring the judgment of God on this nation, you just keep this stuff up.”
Robertson said, “I was reading in Leviticus where it says because of these things the land ‘will vomit you out.’ Vomit you out. I think God will say, ‘I’ve had it with America if you do this kind of stuff, I’m going to get rid of you as a nation.’”
The Mormon Church, also known as the LDS, released its own statement in opposition on May 13, stating, “The Equality Act would threaten religious employment standards, devastate religious education” and “defund numerous religious charities.”
At press time, the House vote is scheduled for May 17, irrespective of opposition.