Even as Americans, as well as the world, wait with bated breath for the results of the United States Presidential Elections due Tuesday, the LGBTQIA community is rooting for the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The latter has promised to put top priority on passing the LGBTQ rights legislation known as the Equality Act, hoping to sign what would be a landmark civil rights law within 100 days, should he win Tuesday’s election.
What is the Equality Act?
The Equality Act would protect U.S. citizens from discrimination based on sexual identity and gender identity by amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most revered accomplishments of the civil rights movement, which banned discrimination based on race, religion, sex and national origin. Biden, a leading voice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights as vice president under Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017, also pledged in an interview with the Philadelphia Gay News to expand queer rights internationally by making equality a centerpiece of U.S. diplomacy if he assumes office in January.
Although he has championed the Equality Act before, his priority is significant, given the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic and a host of other executive orders and regulatory actions that would compete for attention in the early days of a Biden administration.
What did Biden say?
Biden, in an email interview reported by Reuters, said, “I will make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days - a priority that Donald Trump opposes,” Biden said of the Republican incumbent he is challenging. The Trump administration opposed the Equality Act, saying it would “undermine parental and conscience rights,” and has also restricted queer rights in the name of religious liberty.
What did Trump say?
The Trump campaign said that President Donald Trump was the first Republican presidential nominee to mention LGBTQ rights in his 2016 acceptance speech and had appointed LGBTQIA people to the courts and his cabinet. The Democratic Party “has taken the votes of LGBT Americans for granted for far too long, and now they’re finding a home in a Republican Party,” spokeswoman Samantha Zager said by email.
The Trump administration has traditionally been regarded as opposed to LGBTQIA rights and has previously been opposed to the Equality Act while supporting curtailing of LGBTQIA rights in the name of religious freedom.
Can Biden pass the Equality Act in 100 days?
While the promise of greater rights for the queer community sounds pretty as part of his election campaign, Biden is likely to have his work cut out for him. The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act in 2019, but the legislation stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Biden would need the Democrats to hold the House and take control of the Senate to ensure passage. On the international front, Biden also promised to defend American diplomats who speak out for LGBTQ rights in countries that are hostile to queer people and promised to use “America’s full range of diplomatic tools,” including private diplomacy, public statements and United Nations agencies, to promote equality.
“I’ll stand up to bullies and once more put human rights at the center of America’s engagement with the world,” Biden said.
(With inputs from Reuters)
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