President Obama endorses the Equality Act

After a slight delay, the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to expand its anti-discrimination protections to sexual orientation and gender identity, officially has the endorsement of the Obama Administration.

From the Washington Post:

Speaking to reporters, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration “has been reviewing for several weeks” the bill. “It is now clear that the administration strongly supports the Equality Act,” he said, adding it would advance the civil rights of “millions of Americans.”

Earnest added the White House would “work to ensure that the legislative process produces something that balances “the bedrock principles of civil rights with the religious liberty that we hold dear in this country.”

While the bill is almost certainly not going to make it to President Obama’s desk by the end of his term, lending it his support nonetheless grants it legitimacy and puts pressure on Republicans to explain why, exactly, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is Actually Okay.

Especially since, according to polling conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, 64 percent of Republicans support the bill, which enjoys a 78-16 support/oppose split in the public overall.

That jives with earlier polling showing that a majority of Americans think that the kinds of discrimination the Equality Act is designed to protect against are already illegal.

In what may or may not have been a coincidence, the administration’s announcement comes on the same day that President Obama was named Ally of the Year by Out Magazine. In his interview with the magazine for its cover story, President Obama made numerous references to the basic idea behind the Equality Act: that discrimination based on who you are is bad, and American culture and public policy is heading in a direction that will extend that sentiment to LGBT people as it previously did for other historically marginalized groups. As he said:

President Obama, via Pixabay

President Obama, via Pixabay

As I said in Kenya, in a lot of ways what we’re talking about is equality under the law — that was a critical element of the civil rights movement in the United States, and that is an essential part of the struggle that LGBT people are facing around the world.

I think this is both a question of attitudes and a question of behavior. Accepting and embracing someone for who they are requires a change in attitude. And in the United States we’ve seen that change in attitude, in many hearts and minds, as more and more LGBT people are brave enough to come out and live their lives openly, and as their relatives and neighbors and co-workers realize that they know and like and love a member of the LGBT community.

The other part is behavior. Regardless of their personal views, we need to treat one another with a basic level of respect. And governments need to enforce the law, prosecute acts of violence, and protect the human rights of their citizens — all of their citizens — without discrimination.

 

That sounds like an endorsement of the Equality Act, even without official confirmation from his press secretary.

Although it certainly doesn’t hurt.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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