Last week Speaker of the House, John Boehner, announced his resignation to avoid a government shutdown to defund Planned Parenthood. Extreme Conservatives in the Republican Party insisted retaliating if he allowed a budget that would continue funding Planned Parenthood. He signed the budget and stepped down (Washington Post, 2015).
The next speaker is most likely will be from the Majority Party, the Republicans, and not necessarily supportive of LGBT in the 2016 Presidential Election year. The projected lead is Majority Leader Kevin McCarty (R – California) (Washington Post, 2015). “Republican conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) are widely considered to be top contenders to become the next majority leader (Washington Post, 2015).”
As Speaker of the House Boehner was able to block the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) from a Congressional vote in 2014 even though it passed the Senate floor.
Currently, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Rep. David Cicilline (D – RI), and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D – Wisconsin) have proposed the Equality Act that would bring full federal Equality for LGBT in all 50 states (HRC, 2015). While the Equality Act has significant support from groups like Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as, Corporations such as Apple and Amazon there is huge opposition and obstacles to the Equality Act becoming federal law.
In an interview with Sacramento City Councilperson Steve Hansen, the first out LGBT City Council Person in California’s Capitol City; he said the major obstacles are the redistricting that does not expire until 2024 and both houses of Congress being Republican, “We need significantly more change to get the Equality Act Passed.”
In direct opposition, is the Federal Version of a Religious Refusal Act (RFRA), The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). This law would be a Federal Law establishing the right of people in all 50 states to deny LGBT any service based on their personal religious beliefs (HRC, 2015). LGBT can be denied public accommodations, housing, medical treatment, admission to school, parenting rights (ACLU, 2015).
In larger cities, people can be laissiez faire with these issues, but in many states, if the only doctor in your city denies your child medical services you might have to drive to another county to see a doctor. Even in California, most counties do not have LGBT specific medical services or other accommodations. Steve Hansen of Sacramento City Council stated that, “ Religious beliefs never justify discrimination.”When asked about the FADA at a recent Stonewall Democrats General Membership Meeting in Sacramento, California U.S. Congressman Ami Bera stated, “It might pass both houses of Congress but President Obama will never sign it.”
In California, the state recognized with the broadest laws that support equality, adoption rights for LGBT families remain an issue. It is still possible to deny couples custody rights if they use certain reproductive procedures (California Assembly Hearing on AB 960, 2015). Marriage equality is a different set of laws than reproductive rights.
Manhattan Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced the first Federal LGBT Civil Rights Bill in 1974 (Chad Griffin, 2013). Forty-one years later, we are still fighting for this essential legal equality. All LGBT Advocacy Groups are adamant to remind supports our work is not done because of the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year winning marriage equality nationwide. The state legislature of Alabama is threatening to dismantle the states entire marriage license system rather than let LGBT people get married (HRC, 2015). In Texas, the State Attorney General informed every city clerk they have the right to use Kim Davis tactics (The Advocate, 2015).
Two quotes from Chad Griffin, HRC Executive Director, that inspire us all to continue fighting for equality
“The time has come for full federal equality”
“We are not done until everyone, in all 50 states can share in these same victories”