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President Donald Trump came out publicly against the Equality Act on Monday evening, prompting denunciations from LGBTQ rights groups as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives prepares for a vote later this week.
A senior administration official told the press that the president, while opposing “discrimination of any kind,” also opposes the Equality Act, specifically taking issue with provisions that they say would “undermine parental and conscience rights.”
More information about the White House’s opposition to the bill may come later in the week as the vote on the bill, scheduled for Friday, approaches.
The White House’s stated opposition is consistent with actions taken by the president and his administration since taking office. As president — and despite promises on the campaign trail that he would be a stronger LGBTQ advocate than Hillary Clinton — Trump has moved to curtail LGBTQ rights domestically, calling for a ban on transgender service members, withdrawing guidance allowing transgender students to be treated according to their gender identity, urging courts to rule that it is not illegal to fire LGBTQ employees based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and issuing an exemption allowing health care workers to deny care to LGBTQ people.
Social conservatives, particularly Republicans in Congress, have come out in droves against the bill, taking issue primarily with its protections for the transgender community and its explicit redefinition of various forms of anti-LGBTQ discrimination as sex discrimination under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.
They also object to provisions within the bill that prevent the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act from being used to justify instances of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement denouncing Trump’s opposition.
“We’re disgusted, but certainly not surprised, by Donald Trump’s announcement that he opposes the Equality Act, which is supported by seven in ten Americans and more than two hundred major businesses,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “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.”
If the Equality Act receives a House vote and passes, as expected, on a largely party-line vote, the prospects of the bill even receiving a hearing, let alone a floor vote, are less optimistic in a Republican-run Senate, particularly under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). And, given Trump’s opposition, the likelihood of an LGBTQ rights bill being signed into law will not happen until Democrats gain control of the White House (and even then, probably not until the party gains a majority in the Senate).
Polling by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner on behalf of HRC has found that two-thirds of LGBTQ Americans have reported experiencing discrimination in their lives.
That same poll found that voters overwhelmingly supported passing a law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, by a 69% to 27% margin. According to the poll, 80% of Democrats, 72% of independents, and even a majority of Republicans — 51% — support such protections. Furthermore, 64% of voters said they would be less likely to support their member of Congress if they voted against the Equality Act.
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