Trump Signals Opposition to LGBTQ Equality Act

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday May 15, 2019

After the Trump administration's record of attacks on the LGTBQ community — and history of cozying up to the homophobic hard right — it will come as no surprise that the president is opposed to the current version of the Equality Act, which seems poised for likely passage by the Democrat-controlled House.

A spokesperson for the Trump administration told NBC News that the president "absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all," but added that the current bill "in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights."

The argument that those opposed to serving accommodating LGBTQ people and others should have the right to do so based on religious, moral, or "deeply held" personal convictions has emerged in a number of contexts recently, from arguments that vendors of wedding services should be able to deny service to same-sex couples to assertions that doctors, pediatricians, and mental health professionals should be able to refuse care to LGBTQ patients and their children. On the other hand, anti-gay groups have pushed back against state-wide bans on so-called "conversion therapy" for minors, saying that it's a violation of their freedom of speech to prevent practitioners from subjecting LGBTQ youth to the "therapy," which mental health professionals warn is ineffectual and can be deeply traumatizing.

The aim of the bill is to standardize anti-discrimination policies across the country, leveling out the current patchwork that finds some states extending protections to sexual minorities but withholding them from others.

Lawmakers have introduced and re-introduced the Equality Act in various versions since 1974 but have never, as yet, managed to pass the bill. The Equality Act would update existing civil rights legislation to include LGBTQ Americans. If passed this year, the law would coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

Openly lesbian Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who co-sponsored the Equality Act in the Senate, told NBC News that "No American should be at risk of being fired, evicted from their home or denied services because of who they are or whom they love."

Baldwin went on to add, "'The bipartisan Equality Act will move our country forward and the Trump administration's opposition to it highlights how important it is to take back the White House in 2020."

Equality advocates were similarly vocal with their criticism of Trump's position, which "further cements his administration's legacy of being the most anti-LGBTQ government in recent memory," according to GLAAD leader Sarah Kate Ellis.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, "By opposing this common-sense civil rights legislation, Donald Trump is ensuring that LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired or denied housing in a majority of states.

"The LGBTQ community, and all Americans for that matter, deserve a president with the courage and decency to sign this bill into law, and we will continue the urgent work to pass the Equality Act and replace Donald Trump with a pro-equality president who will sign it into law," Griffin added.

Evangelical leaders blasted the Equality Act. Pat Robertson took aim at the bill on the Christian Broadcasting Network, reported political new site The Hill.

"I think God will say, 'I've had it with America if you do this kind of stuff, I'm going to get rid of you as a nation,' " Robertson said.

Such rhetoric was once a staple among the religious right when it came to issues such as marriage equality. But after the 2015 Supreme Court finding that the Constitution provides equal access to marriage for same-sex couples, that rhetoric has now largely shifted to the next frontline in the ongoing civil rights battles. Such rhetoric now focuses on the trans community, NBC News reported.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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