- Democrats had pushed for a vote after the US Supreme Court ruled employers couldn’t discriminate against LGBT+ people.
A Republican has cited JK Rowling’s anti-trans comments to block the Equality Act in the US Senate.
Senate Democrats pushed for a vote on the Equality Act on Thursday. Their move follows the US Supreme Court decision that employers can not discriminate against LGBT+ workers.
If the Equality Act passes, it will confirm these federal protections for employees.
Moreover, it will also amend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination against LGBT+ people in housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system.
Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat, Oregon) called on the Senate to move forward with the Equality Act.
He said it would guarantee ‘the opportunity for every individual to thrive in our nation’.
Moreover he said it was the Senate’s chance to pass legislation rather than leaving it to judges. Some criticized the US Supreme Court for outlawing discrimination without Congress voting on the issue.
‘One colleague responded to the Supreme Court decision on employment non-discrimination earlier in week by saying this judicial rewriting of our law short-circuited the legislative process and the authority of the electorate.
‘Well, let no member of the Senate today short-circuit the legislative process by objecting to the important debate on the floor of the Senate.’
Rowling’s words cast an evil spell on the Senate
However, Senator James Lankford (Republican, Oklahoma) blocked the legislation, citing Harry Potter author JK Rowling.
Last week Rowling made transphobic Twitter remarks, backed up with a lengthy essay against trans rights.
Her comments attracted widespread criticism, including from Harry Potter stars.
Lankford said: ‘We don’t want anyone to be discriminated against, anyone. But we can do this in a way that accommodates everyone, and that we can actually work towards agreement.
‘To say in the words of JK 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.’
He argued against the Equality Act, saying it should make exemptions for religious liberty and privacy issues.
Indeed, other senators also used anti-trans arguments against the Equality Act.
Senator Mike Lee (Republican, Utah) said:
‘The law needs to take into account certain questions regarding what impact the law might have on girls and women’s restrooms and locker rooms, girl’s and women’s athletics, single-sex safe places for people who are, for example, the victims of domestic or sexual abuse.’
Tammy Baldwin: ‘We are not there yet’ on equality
The Equality Act passed the US House of Representatives on 17 May last year. However, it has been stalled in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly failed to bring it to a vote.
Moreover the White House has indicated that Donald Trump is also opposed to the legislation.
By contrast, Joe Biden, has vowed passing the Equality Act will be a top priority for him if he wins the presidency on 3 November.
Senator Tammy Baldwin (Democrat, Wisconsin), a possible running mate for Biden, spoke in favor of the Equality Act.
She praised the Supreme Court justices’ decision but said:
‘While we have taken another big step forward, and it is a big step, in the march towards full equality for LGBTQ Americans, we are not there yet.
‘Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people face discrimination in many more aspects of their lives than the workplace.
‘Our country needs to send a message that treating people unfairly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong and it won’t be tolerated. Period.’