The long march toward equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender Americans — whose advocates have eyed major advances with complete Democratic control in Washington — has run into a wall of opposition in the U.S. Senate.
Floundering alongside other liberal priorities such as voting rights, gun control and police reform, legislation that would write protections for LGBTQ Americans into the nation’s foundational civil rights law have stalled due to sharpening Republican rhetoric, one key Democrat’s insistence on bipartisanship, and the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.
While Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) hinted at a potential action this month — the annual LGBTQ Pride Month — Senate aides and advocates say there are no immediate plans to vote on the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act alongside race, color, religion and national origin.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), one of two openly gay senators, said that she has quietly been lobbying Republican colleagues on the issue and that there has been only “incremental progress,” though efforts are continuing.
“So long as negotiations are productive and we’re making progress, I think we should hold off” on a vote, she said. “There may be a time where there’s an impasse. I’m still trying to find 10 Republicans.”
The House passed the legislation in February, 224 to 206, with only three Republicans joining all 221 Democrats in support. The Senate companion bill is sponsored by 49 Democrats and no Republicans. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) is the Democratic holdout, and the lone Republican who had sponsored a previous version of the bill, Susan Collins (Maine), is not yet doing so in this Congress.
The partisanship around the issue on Capitol Hill stands in contrast to the wide-ranging support for LGBTQ rights among the public at large, in corporate America, and even in the federal judiciary, which has delivered a string of rulings expanding those rights — including a landmark Supreme Court opinion last year written by conservative Justice Neil M. Gorsuch that effectively banned employment discrimination on the basis of sexual identity.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis