A congressional hearing got personal as the House Judiciary Committee discussed the Equality Act, a law that would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of identities protected under federal civil rights laws.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) began to tear up as she spoke about her own gender non-conforming child, who she said came out to her last year.
“We’re talking about fear versus love,” Jayapal, a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said during a hearing for the Equality Act. “We’re talking about fear versus freedom.”
Jayapal became visibly emotional and then stopped to say that she “didn’t intend” to share this story today before going on to talk about her 22-year-old child.
“Over the last year, I have come to understand from a deeply personal mother’s perspective ― I’ve always been a civil rights activist, I’ve always fought for my constituents and my communities to have equal rights ― but from a mother’s perspective, I came to understand what their newfound freedom ― it is the only way I can describe what has happened to my beautiful child, what their newfound freedom to wear a dress, to rid themselves of some conformist stereotype of what they are, to be able to express who they are at their real core,” Jayapal said.
Jayapal tweeted out the video. “During @HouseJudiciary today, I shared why the #EqualityAct is so personal to me and my family. My child is finally free to be who they are. With that freedom comes a responsibility, for us as legislators, to legislate with love and not fear,” she wrote alongside the video.
During @HouseJudiciary today, I shared why the #EqualityAct is so personal to me and my family. My child is finally free to be who they are. With that freedom comes a responsibility, for us as legislators, to legislate with love and not fear. pic.twitter.com/VfpiD9aDyY
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) April 2, 2019
“Since this deeply impactful moment last year, my child ― who has always done well in school but has carried what a mother can only describe as a heavy burden of conflict in their own being that I could not fully identify or help to express ― since this deeply impactful moment last year, my child’s embracing of their nonconforming gender identity and all that it has allowed, all that it allows in terms of their creativity, their brilliance, their self-expression, the only thought I wake up with every day is my child is free,” the representative continued.
She added, “My child is free to be who they are. And in that freedom comes a responsibility for us as legislators to protect their freedom to be who they are and to legislate ... our behavior towards all people in our society.”
Democratic lawmakers introduced the bill to Congress on March 13. Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously indicated that the Equality Act would be a legislative priority for the newly-Democratic congress that started work in January. Prior to the Congressional hearings for the Equality Act, Sally Field recorded a PSA about the legislation with her out gay son.
If the Equality Act passes in the House, it will be the first federal bill guaranteeing LGBTQ+ protections to pass the legislative body.