President-elect Joe Biden promised the historic Equality Act would be one of his top priorities upon taking office January 20, but it now looks like it might take longer than he hoped to pass. The landmark legislation would amend existing law to explicitly prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. However, multiple unnamed sources on a recent call between LGBTQ+ activists and the Biden transition team reported that a quick passage of the act might not be possible after all.
“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,” Biden said on the campaign trail in October. “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.”
The state of the nation has changed since then and, according to a report in LGBTQ Nation, participants on the call said the transition team is pulling back from that commitment. Their sources said the incoming administration now fears they don’t have enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill even with their new majority, which still must find time to conduct Trump’s second impeachment trial — it's important to note that Democrats only have a narrow, simple majority as opposed to a two-thirds majority, which is needed for passage of major decisions like impeachment. The transition team also pointed to the incoming administration’s need to focus on the Trump’s troubled vaccine rollout first. That said, they did stress Biden intends to begin work dismantling Trump’s transgender military ban.
According to the Washington Blade, however, those explanations left some leaders dissatisfied. One source described as a “Democratic insider” told the Blade “the notion that our government can only focus on one thing at a time isn’t acceptable” and that “you can’t have the agenda and policy goals that Biden does and not have the process to move faster.”
However, the Blade reported that most of the LGBTQ+ activists they consulted were more understanding of the pressures the incoming administration faces in safely righting the ship of state immediately.
“I think we’ve gotten the commitments that we expected and hoped for and sought from the Biden team and from legislative leadership,” one unnamed LGBTQ+ advocate told the Blade, noting the importance of hold the Biden administration accountable while at the same time “understanding that the country, our democracy, and the ability of people to actually live is going to take priority.”