Eleven former congressional Republicans came together to send a letter to current members of the House and Senate to urgently pass federal LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections, as reported by The Hill. With laws like Alabama making it a felony offense for one to seek gender-affirming care and white supremacists targeting a pride event in Idaho and kid-friendly drag queen events in California, legislation like the Equality Act is more needed than ever.
Now, I know what you’re thinking to yourself while reading this. Republicans are calling for protections? Especially when you consider that Former Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of the letter’s authors, voted to pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, as The Hill points out.
In 2011, Ros-Lehtinen would later co-sponsor a bill to repeal it. Ros-Lehtinen also has a son who identifies as a transgender man and leads the nonprofit National Center for Transgender Equality. This year alone, ten states have disallowed transgender athletes from participating on teams aligned with their gender identity. Half of the anti-LGBTQ+ laws passed this year have targeted transgender people.
Hopefully, this indicates that people can change their viewpoints once they witness the consequences of unprotected violations. (I wouldn’t hold my breath for current Republicans). Ros-Lehtinen and former reps such as Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA) highlighted the systematic approach Republican-led states are taking and the lack of protections that are loosely still standing to help the LGBTQ+ community.
“There’s never been a more urgent, more critical time for Congress to act,” former Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of the letter’s signatories and chair of the group Conservatives Against Discrimination, told Changing America. In the absence of federal legislation, LGBTQ+ Americans are unfairly existing under a “patchwork” of state-by-state protections, she said, and rights that are guaranteed in one state are unprotected in another.
“That’s why you need federal bipartisan protections, like those that are guaranteed under the Equality Act,” Ros-Lehtinen said, referring to the federal nondiscrimination law passed last year by the House of Representatives. The measure remains stalled in the Senate, where its fate is still uncertain.
The Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination protections to the Civil Rights Act, is still awaiting a vote in the Senate and most likely won’t get the 60 votes needed due to Republican resistance.