Progress

11 Republicans Sign Petition for Passing Widespread LGBTQ+ Protections

Eleven Republican former legislators have petitioned Congress to pass federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ citizens, according to The Hill.

“Without a doubt, bipartisan passage of federal legislation to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans will help Congress meet the demands of this moment,” the letter sent on Tuesday read.

“The demands of the moment” refers to recent attacks on queer freedoms. Several anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced across the nation, particularly targeting trans youth. Many of these bills have passed—including the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida and a cruel Alabama law felonizing the provision of gender-affirming care to minors.

In some cases, the threat to LGBTQ safety has been more immediate. Last year saw 57 trans people murdered, according the HRC. More recently, a right-wing conspiracy theory blamed the Uvalde shooting on the trans community, resulting in one trans teen being assaulted. And with Pride month underway, White supremacists groups have targeted a Pride in the Park event in Idaho and a drag queen story hour at a public library in California.

“There’s never been a more urgent, more critical time for Congress to act,” said former Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is also chair of Conservatives Against Discrimination. Currently, LGBTQ+ citizens are federally protected from employment discrimination by the Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Other nondiscrimination protections are covered by a “patchwork” of laws that vary from state to state. “That’s why you need federal bipartisan protections, like those that are guaranteed under the Equality Act,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

The Equality Act would update the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity under its protections. The bill passed the House of Representatives in February last year, and it is currently stalled in the Senate, where it is not expected to pass the 60-vote threshold mandated by the filibuster.

Some co-signers of this letter to Congress—including Ros-Lehtinen, Chris Shays, and Jim Kolbe—previously voted in support of 1996’s Defense of Marriage Act, which outlawed same-sex marriage. In 2011, Ros-Lehtinen co-sponsored a bill to repeal it. She also has a transgender son, who last year became the head of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Although Senate Republicans are primarily responsible for blocking legislation like the Equality Act, Ros-Lehtinen expressed a more optimistic view of the party. “It seems that there’s a lot of Republicans who have these views that seem a little extreme, but I don’t think that’s an accurate picture,” she said. “For every naysayer, there’s someone who’s espousing a more inclusive, more positive message in our political party. Hope is not lost.”

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