The Equality Act, a landmark piece of legislation that would amend existing civil rights laws to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, has stalled. With a Republican-led Senate and Donald Trump as president, the act, which if passed would impact sectors like housing, federal funding, credit, and public education, has been halted in its tracks even though it's ben signal-boosted multiple times by politicians and celebrities alike -- Taylor Swift notably tried to rally support by forwarding fans to a petition. And though Joe Biden has long been in support of the act, now he's indicated it would be a major priority for him if he were to become president.
"Donald Trump and Mike Pence have given hate against LGBTQ+ individuals safe harbor and rolled back critical protections for the LGBTQ+ community," Biden told Philadelphia Gay News in an interview before listing examples: the ban on trans service members n the military, allowing federally-funded adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples, etc. "To help achieve our vision of equality, I will make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days -- a priority that Donald Trump opposes. This is essential to ensuring that no future president can ever again roll back civil rights and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, including when it comes to housing."
And while the passage of the Equality Act certainly would strengthen protections for LGBTQ+ rights, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case slated to be heard by the Supreme Court the day after the election, could deliver those protections a major blow before Biden steps foot in office.
In the case, the Supreme Court will answer whether federally-funded agencies can discriminate based on religious preference under the First Amendment. According to the ACLU, a broad ruling for Catholic Social Services (a government contractor that saw its deal end as a result of not serving same-sex couples) would go beyond anything Congress can address via new legislation and allow continued discrimination. If Amy Coney Barrett were to hear this case, having now been confirmed to the bench, it is likely that she (along with the rest of the court's conservative majority) would rule n favor of religious preference. Still, that is only one aspect of the Equality Act, so passing it would ensure that some protections are gained.
In addition to that legislation though, a Biden administration would fight for LGBTQ+ rights worldwide, according to the candidate.
"As President, I'll restore America's global leadership on LGBTQ+ issues and actively combat violence and discrimination that is far too rampant," he said. "I will build on the Obama-Biden successes and repair the damage wrought by the Trump-Pence Administration's treatment of LGBTQ+ Americans, which signals a tolerance for abuses by other countries, and its utter failure to defend American diplomats who speak out for LGBTQ+ rights abroad."
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