The Equality Act, if passed, will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes so that LGBTQ Americans can enjoy the same protections as other marginalized groups. Most Senate Democrats fully support this bill but one person, Joe Manchin of West Virginia refuses to sign it because it has protections for trans students in place, according to NBC.
The Democratic Caucus in the Senate consists of 47 members, 45 of which are Democrats, Bernie Sanders, and Angus King, both of which are Independents. To avoid a tie-breaking vote by Mike Pence (who will definitely not support this bill), 51 votes are needed. By Joe Manchin refusing to sign it, the bill still stands at 47 votes, with Republican Senator Susan Collins in support of the Equality Act.
Manchin posted on his website the reason why he won’t support this bill. He wrote, “I am not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it, particularly with respect to students transitioning between genders in public schools.” Tammy Baldwin said in response to Manchin’s comment that she wishes that the Senate would agree that students, even LGBTQ ones, should be protected from discrimination in schools. I don’t think it’s too farfetched to recognize the need for anti-discrimination laws but it seems that some people are just behind the times.
However, it is unlikely that Manchin will ever sign the bill as long as trans protections are included as he does not have the best track record in regards to LGBTQ rights, as he was one of the last Democrats to support marriage equality also voted against repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and scored lower than two GOP Senators in the HRC’s Congressional Scorecard.
While having 47 guaranteed yeses is a definitely a good sign, in order for the bill to be passed, four GOP Senators will have to sign it. That doesn’t seem like much but knowing how polarizing LGBTQ rights are between Democrats and Republicans, I’m not holding my breath. This bill will most likely pass in the Democratic-majority House of Representatives, but without the Senate’s approval, the bill will simply remain a bill. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised and some GOP Senators will show their support for LGBTQ rights, but we’ll have to wait and see.