GOP senators score average of 1.6 out of 100 from top LGBTQ group

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These Republican members of Congress have repeatedly attacked LGBTQ equality.

A major advocacy group released its latest scorecard on how members of Congress voted on or cosponsored bills that affect LGBTQ people on Thursday.

The average score for Republican senators on the Human Rights Campaign's congressional scorecard was 1.6 out of 100, compared to an average score of 96 out of 100 for Senate Democrats, according to The Hill's analysis. Republicans in the House of Representatives didn't do much better, at 4.2 compared to 98.3 for House Democrats. Many GOP lawmakers received a zero rating.

HRC President Alphonso David admonished the Republican-controlled Senate for its "inaction and misplaced priorities" over the past two years, and for appointing conservative judges with anti-LGBTQ records.

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"In addition to their lack of diversity, many appointees lack the basic qualifications — as objectively assessed by the American Bar Association — to sit on the federal bench. And a great many have shown hostility to LGBTQ people," David wrote.

Three GOP senators — Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), James Inhofe (R-OK), and James Lankford (R-OK) — all received zero ratings from the LGBTQ rights group. To find out why they earned the lowest possible rating, let's take a closer look at their voting records on issues that affect the LGBTQ community.

Last year, House Democrats passed the Equality Act, which provided explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing, education, and public accommodations. The bill passed the House 236-173, mostly along party lines. All the no votes came from Republicans.

Graham serves as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In that role, he gets to decide which bills get hearings, and which get shuffled to the bottom of the pile. The Equality Act was referred to Graham's committee in March of 2019, and it hasn't moved since then.

In 2013, Graham voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. The bill would have explicitly banned employers from discriminating against LGBTQ employees or job applicants. Graham also opposed repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell," which barred openly gay men and women from serving in the U.S. military. Graham argued the issue "is about effectiveness on the battlefield during a time of war, not about civil rights."

Inhofe has a long history of opposing LGBTQ rights, and recently made his mark opposing protections for LGBTQ service members. Last year, when lawmakers tried to pass a defense spending package, Inhofe championed a "skinny" version of the bill that left out an amendment prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ service members and reversing Donald Trump's transgender military ban.

Inhofe is also a vocal opponent of marriage equality. He supported the State Marriage Defense Act in 2015, which would have required the federal government to defer to states when deciding if LGBTQ people are considered married in the eyes of the law. The bill was introduced in the same year that the Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country.

Lankford has railed against the Equality Act, and quoted Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has made discriminatory statements about transgender women.

"To say in the words of J.K. Rowling this past week, where she wrote, 'All I’m asking, all I want is for similar empathy, similar understanding to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats or abuse.' Let’s work together to get equality. This bill does not do it in this form," Lankford said.

Lankford has argued the Equality Act doesn't protect religious liberty, and has trafficked in the conservative myth that transgender people are more likely to be sexual predators than cisgendered people.

He also supports the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, a proposed amendment to Title IX which would require that "sex be recognized based solely on a person's reproductive biology and genetics at birth." The bill would force transgender people to play on teams that do not reflect their correct gender.

Reps. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO), Doug Collins (R-GA), and Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) have also received zero ratings from the Human Rights Campaign for their record on LGBTQ rights. The three lawmakers have dedicated much of their time in Congress to fighting protections against discrimination.

Hartzler, Lesko, and Collins all fought against the Equality Act last year, claiming without evidence that the legislation would put cisgendered women in harm's way. In reality, transgender men, women, and nonbinary people experience high levels of abuse, and often face discrimination at work and when seeking medical care.

Lesko has opposed LGBTQ equality for some time. In 2014, as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, Lesko voted for a SB 1062, a bill that claimed to protect religious freedom by allowing people to refuse service to queer and transgender people on religious grounds.

"I believe that all people should be treated equally, but I am concerned that HR 5, with the weight of federal law, forces schools, prisons, shelters, etc. to prioritize the rights of biological males over that of biological women," Lesko said during a hearing on the Equality Act.

Collins, who also earned a zero rating, co-sponsored the State Marriage Defense Act of 2015, and argued against the Equality Act. "Women, lesbians, and families become the collateral damage of identity politics," he said.

Despite his supposed concern for the welfare of cisgender lesbians, Collins opposed the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling on marriage equality. "States have already voted to keep the definition of marriage to one man and one woman, and the court’s decision is a gross infringement on American democracy," Collins said at the time.

Before the Equality Act vote, Hartzler said state policies protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination "have already been used to eliminate safe spaces for women, irreparably harm children, trample parental rights, undermine the free exercise of religion, and dismantle free athletics."

Hartzler's office also signed off on an event last year that allowed CHANGED, a "conversion therapy" group, to visit Capitol Hill. "Conversion therapy" is a harmful practice that asserts that queer people's sexual orientation and transgender people's gender can be changed. While Hartzler later said that she was not aware of her office's choice to allow the group in, she ultimately supported the decision.

In 2017, Hartzler proposed an amendment to stop the Pentagon from covering the cost of any gender-affirming surgery or hormone therapy. Hartzler's amendment came before Trump's announcement that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military altogether.

At press time, no GOP lawmakers returned requests seeking comment on their Human Rights Campaign ratings.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.