Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says in a new interview that if elected he would prioritize passage of the Equality Act, a bill that has sparked concern from religious liberty groups over its impact and from some LGBT activists over its effect on female sports.
Biden told the Philadelphia Gay News in an interview published Wednesday he wants to see the Equality Act passed and signed into law during his first 100 days in office. The Democrat-controlled House passed it last year, but the GOP-led Senate never brought it up for a vote. A spokesman for President Trump said last year the “bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.”
The Equality Act would amend federal laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment and housing.
“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 told the publication. “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. I will also direct my Cabinet to ensure immediate and full enforcement of the Equality Act across all federal departments and agencies.”
The Equality Act, Biden said, “is essential to reducing economic barriers and ensuring consistent protection from discrimination for LGBTQ+ individuals.”
“Too many states do not have laws that explicitly protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination,” Biden said. “It’s wrong to deny people access to services or housing because of who they are or who they love.”
Some supporters of the Equality Act have warned women’s sports are in danger if it’s not amended. Doriane Coleman, Martina Navratilova and Sanya Richards-Ross wrote a Washington Post editorial last year saying they support the goal of the act but warned it would “make it unlawful to differentiate among girls and women in sports on the basis of sex for any purpose.” In its current form, they wrote, it would require biological males who identify as females to be allowed to compete in female sports.
Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of U.S. legal division of Alliance Defending Freedom, said last year the act “would undermine women’s equality and force women and girls to share private, intimate spaces with men who identify as female” and deny “women fair competition in sports.” Further, she said, “it would force Americans to participate in events and speak messages that violate their core beliefs.”
Biden also told the publication he would reverse some religious liberty protections the Trump administration implemented.
“Trump has deliberately tried to gut protections for the LGBTQ+ community by creating broad religious exemptions to existing nondiscrimination laws and policies that allow businesses, medical providers, and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people,” Biden said. “We need to root out discrimination in our laws, institutions, and public spaces. Religion should not be used as a license to discriminate, and as president I will oppose legislation to deny LGBTQ+ equal treatment in public places. I will immediately reverse discriminatory practices that Trump put in place and work to advance the rights of LGBTQ+ people widely.”
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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Scott Olson/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.