'Happy Pride. Now, abolish the damn filibuster and pass the Equality Act,' tweeted Rep. Mondaire Jones.
With Pride Month celebrations in full swing, there are at least four bills sitting in or about to be introduced to Congress right now that lawmakers could vote in favor of to help advance LGBTQ equality.
Democratic members of Congress have introduced legislation that would advance LGBTQ equality this session, from prohibiting discrimination in child welfare services to mandating the collection of data on violence against LGBTQ people.
The bills introduced in Congress are H.R. 5, the Equality Act; H.R. 3488 and its companion S. 1848, the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act; the LGBTQ Essential Data Act; and H.R. 3672, to expand protections for transgender dependents of members of the Armed Forces.
Advocates for LGBTQ people say that they would direct resources to prevent violence against transgender people, ensure that sweeping federal nondiscrimination protections last well past equality-friendly presidential administrations, and provide vulnerable children with a better quality of life.
It's unclear what prospects the four bills have of coming up for a vote or passing through the House or the Senate.
The Equality Act, versions of which have been considered in Congress for decades, passed in the House of Representatives earlier this year, with only three Republican votes in favor of it, and has been sitting in the Senate since March. The legislation would expand and clarify federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing, health care, jury service, public accommodations, education, and more.
According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll released in March, 85% of Democrats, 79% of independents, and 62% of Republicans support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
In April, during a virtual town hall, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, "The Equality Act will get a vote in the Senate. Every senator will be forced to show where they stand on this issue. They won't be able to duck and hide." Two weeks ago, Schumer told members of Congress that he'd bring it to a vote before the end of June.
Although President Joe Biden has taken steps to implement protections for LGBTQ people in accordance with such rulings as the 2020 Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton that extended the definition of discrimination on the basis of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the durability of such protections are currently dependent on the person in the White House.
Winnie Stachelberg, executive vice president for external affairs at the Center for American Progress, noted in a statement after Biden signed an executive order on Bostock that the Equality Act was needed to ensure that "the rights of LGBTQ Americans are not left up to the whims of the person who sits in the Oval Office."
The bill would need the support of all Democrats and 10 Republicans to overcome a filibuster by opponents, and the chances of it receiving backing from enough lawmakers look increasingly slim.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) indicated his support for changing things up when he shared a June 1 tweet posted by Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY), one of the first Black gay men elected to Congress, that read, "Happy Pride. Now, abolish the damn filibuster and pass the Equality Act." Merkley wrote, "As the author of the Equality Act, I wholeheartedly endorse this tweet!"
Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced the introduction of H.R. 3488 and S. 1848, called the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act, in May. It would ban the harmful practice of "conversion therapy" in foster care, ensure that there is proper data collection on LGBTQ families and children the child welfare system, and prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the system.
Groups advocating for LGBTQ families and addressing youth homelessness support the bill, including Family Equality, True Colors United, and PFLAG National. It has one Republican co-sponsor in the House, Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon of Puerto Rico, who does not have a vote. There are no Republican co-sponsors in the Senate.
Davis said, "We expect it to be passed during this session of Congress" during a press conference on the bill in May.
When asked on Tuesday when the House would take the bill up for a vote, he told the American Independent Foundation, "We don't have a date yet but we're trying to get one. It's very very important to me and to all of the sponsors of the bill and to many people throughout America, so we're pushing as hard as we can."
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) reintroduced the LGBTQ Essential Data Act on Tuesday, his office said. The bill would ensure that a federal database tracks killings and suicides of LGBTQ people. Troy Stevenson, senior advocacy campaign manager for the Trevor Project, told the American Independent Foundation in January that the bill was key to preventing suicides and allocating resources to respond to LGBTQ people's mental health issues. Maloney's office did not say when the bill is expected to come up for a vote.
On the first day of Pride Month, Democrats in the House introduced H.R. 3672, a bill sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) that would make sure that service members with transgender dependents aren't placed in countries or states with restrictions on gender-affirming care, such as hormone treatments and puberty blockers, for youth under 18.
The Modern Military Association of America, which advocates for LGBTQ service members, veterans, and their families, and Blue Star Families, a group founded by military spouses, support the legislation. There are no Republican co-sponsors. Panetta's office did not respond to the American Independent Foundation's queries about the bill.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.