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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 2, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 44
Anti-LGBT groups prepare for Dem majority in Congress
Section One
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Anti-LGBT groups prepare for Dem majority in Congress

Focus on drumming up opposition to Equality Act

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Nancy Pelosi - likely to be Speaker of the House in January if Democrats recapture a majority in that body on November 6 - has promised that one of the first items on her agenda will be the Equality Act, legislation that would add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights laws.

According to Pelosi's spokesperson, Drew Hammill, the measure will be given a low bill number, meaning it will be one of the first issues addressed by Congress if Democrats retake the House in the November election.

Right-wing Christian groups, apparently afraid that Republicans will lose control of the House, are already campaigning against the legislation.

Mary Beth Waddell, a senior legislative assistant for the Family Research Council, said in a statement that the Equality Act is government-sanctioned discrimination against religious people.

'What the Equality Act does is it turns it on its head and allows the government to impose a belief system about sexual decisions and sexual behaviors on the nation,' Waddell said.

The Heritage Foundation also weighed in, noting that they have 'long opposed the expansion of anti-discrimination laws to elevate 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' as protected classes.'

The Equality Act would 'trample First Amendment rights and unnecessarily impinge on citizens' right to run their local schools, charities, and businesses in ways consistent with their values,' the group warned, and would 'grant special privileges that are enforceable against private actors.'

The Equality Act was first introduced by Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY) in 1974, but it never got traction. It died in the House Judiciary Committee.

In 2015 a new version of the bill was introduced with Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) as the prime sponsor in the House, and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) as Senate sponsor. The 2015 version was a response to the failure of Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which managed to get through the House in 2007 and the Senate in 2013 but was blocked each time by Republican majorities in the other chamber.

To date, the legislation has 198 co-sponsors, only two of whom are Republicans. One of those Republican co-sponsors, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), is not seeking re-election.

Should Democrats take back control of the House, prospects are good for passing the bill, especially with support from Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, but it is not likely to get through the Senate, even if Democrats win a narrow majority in that chamber.

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