All Things Being Equal
The United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill, on Friday, May 17. The bill received 236 ayes and 173 nays, with eight Republicans casting favorable votes. Remarkably, three Republicans actually signed on as co-sponsors. Calls are already being made for the electoral ouster of those eight GOP’ers—from within their own ranks.
In a press release, HRC President Chad Griffin stated, “Today’s historic vote is a major milestone for equality and sends a powerful and profound message to LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth, that the US House has their backs. No one’s rights should depend on which side of a state or city line they live on, and today we took a giant step forward in our journey toward full equality.
“This historic victory would not have been possible without the millions of LGBTQ people and our allies who organized, mobilized and turned out to elect a pro-equality majority in 2018. Now, we will take our fight to the US Senate and turn up the pressure on Leader McConnell to allow a vote on this crucial legislation. And we won’t slow down in working to turn out the 10 million eligible LGBTQ voters and our millions more allies to elect a pro-equality President in 2020 who will sign the Equality Act into law.”
As Griffin notes, the next stop for this bill is the desk of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In other words, this bill is going nowhere. It is unlikely that McConnell will even bring it to the floor for a vote. Although strategically, it might not be a bad idea for him to do so. It would provide an opportunity for Senate Republicans to show their allegiance to the Trump agenda, just as the 2020 election approaches. Even if such a miracle would occur that this bill would pass the Senate, it would quickly (and publicly on Twitter) be denounced and vetoed.
This is not to say that it was an empty gesture on the part of the House of Representatives to write and pass the bill in the first place. There were several remarkable aspects to H.R. 5. No bill in the history of the House has had as many co-sponsors as this one. The fact that eight Republicans voted in favor of the bill shows that there are cracks beginning to form in the wall the GOP has built around itself. Partisanship is starting to transition to bi-partisanship.
On the evening of the bill’s passage, a unique group of people met at the Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach. The Washington Blade Foundation had a gathering, with Sarah McBride as a featured speaker. Having attended the bill passage in the legislative halls of Congress, McBride made her way to Rehoboth afterward. In her remarks, McBride challenged the group, “We have faced attack after attack after attack, but we were always ready to fight back and come back even stronger!”
McBride shared two examples of how successful this “fight back” has been. The first was during the George W. Bush administration, when much of the country was against same-sex marriage. Groundwork was laid, seeds were planted, and the fruit of everyone’s labor came in 2017 when the Supreme Court approved marriage for all people. The second example was in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where the out, transgender Danica Roem successfully challenged and beat the 13-term incumbent Bob Marshall. He once described himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Success never felt so good.
Lest we tear our rotator cuffs patting ourselves on the back, reality hits hard. There are many detractors, and dirty politics is alive and well in DC. Some of the most vehement objections and financially supported opposition comes from the evangelical right. The Family Research Council (FRC) is an umbrella organization for many conservative groups, and has demonstrated a strong record of extreme right positions on LGBTQ issues.
An issue brief was released by the FRC in advance of the vote on H.R. 5, written by Mary Beth Waddell, a senior legislative assistant for this group. Anyone who takes the time to read through this white paper will be compelled to contact their favorite fact-checker. Waddell attempts to outdo Trump in the number of misstatements—excuse me, lies—that can be packed into one place. The title of the issue brief gives a not-so-subtle hint about its intent, “The Inequality of the ‘Equality Act’ of 2019.” Waddell goes on to parse the progressive language of the bill and compose a rebuttal encased with evangelical talking points. This, unfortunately, is but one example of numerous outcries against equality, be it political or religious.
The Equality Act will not become law, at least anytime soon. What are we to do in the meantime? As Sarah McBride stated, “We [are] always ready to fight back and come back even stronger!”.▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter.