Senator James Lankford, R-Okla., on Thursday blocked Senate consideration of the Equality Act, an LGBTQ civil rights bill, by citing "Harry Potter" author J. K. Rowling’s recent blog post, which has been criticized as a “transphobic manifesto.”
“To say in the words of J.K. Rowling this past week where she wrote, ‘All I’m asking, all I want is for similar empathy, similar understanding to be extended to the many millions of women whose sole crime is wanting their concerns to be heard without receiving threats or abuse,’” Lankford said on the Senate floor, as first reported by The Washington Blade. “Let’s work together to get equality. This bill does not do it in this form.”
The GOP-controlled Senate has refused to bring the Equality Act up for a vote since it was passed by the House of Representatives in May 2019. In addition, the Trump administration has advanced anti-transgender legal arguments before the Supreme Court and in federal rule-making processes.
The Equality Act would amend civil rights bills pertaining to employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to their lists of protected classes.
In a landmark Supreme Court decision on Monday, the justices ruled that the ban on workplace sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is inclusive of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
But a bipartisan group of senators on Wednesday called upon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to bring the Equality Act up for a vote, saying existing law provides “insufficient recourse” for LGBTQ people facing discrimination.
“In a landmark victory for justice and equality, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that employers cannot unfairly fire or otherwise discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people in the workplace,” the senators wrote. “However, current gaps in nondiscrimination laws leave many people subject to discrimination, which is why we urge you to schedule a vote to pass the Equality Act.”
“The Equality Act would provide unequivocal nondiscrimination protections for people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity in a number of areas, including public spaces and services, housing, education, credit, jury service and federally funded programs, as well as explicitly codifying the Supreme Court’s holding regarding employment,” the senators continued. “By explicitly including sexual orientation and gender identity in civil rights laws, we can ensure that every person can live their life free from harassment and discrimination.”
Gillian Branstetter, a transgender advocate and spokeswoman for the National Women's Law Center, said, "Nearly every attack on the rights of women in American history has been poorly disguised as an attempt to act in women's best interest — whether it was the anti-suffragists, the antifeminists, or anti-abortion activists."
"Those opposing transgender equality are no different and — as the Supreme Court affirmed earlier this week — you cannot limit the rights of transgender women without limiting the rights of all women."