Thanks, in part, to the words from J.K. Rowling’s essay defending her view on transgenders, one member of the United States Senate justified his refusal to a vote on the Equality Act. H.R. 5, better known as the Equality Act, was approved by the House of Representatives in 2019 and sent to the Senate on May 20, 2019.
After over a year of inactivity on the Equality Act, the Senate Democrats used the Supreme Court’s ruling that LGBTQ+ workers were protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as momentum to try to get a vote on the Senate Floor. Senator Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin) explained the reasoning to vote on the Equality Act:
“While we have taken another big step forward, and it is a big step, in the march towards full equality for LGBTQ Americans, we are not there yet. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people face discrimination in many more aspects of their lives than the workplace. Our country needs to send a message that treating people unfairly because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong and it won’t be tolerated. Period.”
Their efforts, however, were thwarted by two Republican Senators, Josh Hawley (Missouri) and James Lankford (Oklahoma). The latter used the reasoning of perception and Rowling’s essay to filibuster the Equality Act.
Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon), the chief sponsor of the bill in the Senate, expressed his disappointment concerning the denial of a vote on the equality act:
“For those colleagues across the aisle who have said that the Supreme Court shouldn’t have acted this week, that it should be the legislature that acts, and yet come to the floor and don’t argue—fail to argue—that we should, in fact, act, isn’t that obstruction of the legislative process?
I would encourage my colleagues who say that there are important issues to be considered to go to their leadership and say ‘Let’s get the committee that has this bill, the Equality Act, to start doing its job: Hold the hearings; hold the conversation’ because to fail to argue that it should be done in committee while you lament on the floor that the committee hasn’t acted is certainly an argument with no integrity.”
The measure to vote on the Equality Act was struck down by Republicans in the Senate by a vote of 51-42.