The LGBTQ Equality Act is designed to prevent discrimination, not enable it, but it appears that some Republican lawmakers did not get the memo.
The United States Senate debated the landmark legislation — which would expand existing civil-rights law to codify federal nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ Americans — at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today (March 17). The Equality Act passed in the House of Representatives last month; now, its future is in the hands of the Senate, where it will need bipartisan support to move forward.
The freedom of full equality for #LGBTQ Americans is the next step forward for our country. When the Senate Judiciary Committee (@JudiciaryDems) holds its hearing today on the Equality Act, I will be there to make my voice heard. #EqualityActNOW
— Sen. Tammy Baldwin (@SenatorBaldwin) March 17, 2021
During the hearing, a number of Republicans senators weaponized transphobic rhetoric to argue against the Equality Act, citing baseless concerns about “[cisgender] girls and women in sports” in the same vein as the shocking number of anti-transgender bills in state legislatures around the country. Advocates say that these bills are addressing problems that simply don’t exist. Still, they would have real consequences for trans and gender non-conforming people, who are already disproportionately impacted by discrimination and hate-motivated violence.
Other Senate Republicans appealed to the religious right, claiming that the Equality Act would infringe upon the freedoms of businesses or organizations affiliated with religious groups.
The hateful rhetoric perpetuated by anti-LGBTQ lawmakers isn’t indicative of how the American public actually feels. According to a new report from HRC, more than 70% of Americans — including 50% of Republicans — support the Equality Act. Those figures are even higher for trans students athletes, whom 73% of the country believes should be able to play sports on whichever team is most comfortable for them. The legislation is also backed by hundreds of corporations and civil-rights groups and President Joe Biden.
Moments after lawmakers and activists referred to trans girls as "biological males," 16-year-old Stella Keating testifies in support of the Equality Act on behalf of "hundreds of thousands of kids just like me."
"Hi, I'm Stella, and I'm transgender," she said. https://t.co/xCJnFsFjOx
— Samantha Schmidt (@schmidtsam7) March 17, 2021
Supporters of the Equality Act held their ground at the hearing, too. Out lawmakers like Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island testified in favor of the watershed bill. They were joined by Stella Keating, a transgender teenager and the only openly trans person on the hearing’s schedule. At just 16 years old, Keating is the first trans teen to testify before the Senate.
Alphonso David, president and CEO of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), also testified.
“LGBTQ people are in every part of this country, in every small town and major city, every community and native territory,” he said during his opening statement. “We are veterans, nurses, teachers, parents, and artists. We are your colleagues. And all we are asking is for the same protections under the law that should be guaranteed to every single person in this nation.”