Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) announced Monday that he will not support the recently introduced Equality Act as it is currently written, breaking from the rest of his caucus in arguing that the legislation, which would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, will be too difficult to implement.
Senate Democrats on Wednesday re-introduced the bill, which was first introduced in 1974 and would prohibit employers, landlords, school administrators, and others from discriminating against transgender and homosexual Americans. In a statement, Manchin said that he would be open to supporting the bill with some unspecified changes, but could not support it as it stands now.
“I strongly support equality for all people and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” the statement read. “No one should be afraid of losing their job or losing their housing because of their sexual orientation. After speaking with local education officials in West Virginia, 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. I will continue working with the sponsors of the bill to build broad bipartisan support and find a viable path forward for these critical protections so that I can vote in support of this bill.”
The bill, which was introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D., Wisc.), would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes, in a move progressive lawmakers argue is in keeping with the spirit of the original legislation.
“We have introduced the Equality Act because everybody deserves to have the same opportunities and the same opportunity to chase their ambitions and the same shot at success,” Baldwin told Elle. “The Equality Act is our answer to this challenge.”
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D. Calif.) vowed during an October speech to prioritize the passage of the Equality Act if her caucus reclaimed the House majority, and reaffirmed that promise during her maiden speech as speaker in January.
“We will make America fairer by passing the Equality Act to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community,” Pelosi said while accepting the speakership.
The bill’s critics, however, claim that any federal mandate that ties federal funding to a certain view of how biology and gender intersect likely violates a number of constitutional rights.
Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom’s U.S. legal division, told the Catholic News Agency that the legislation would undermine “the fundamental freedoms of speech, religion, and conscience that the First Amendment guarantees for every citizen.”
“Disagreement on important matters such as marriage and human sexuality is not discrimination,” she added.
Manchin is the lone Senate Democrat publicly opposing the bill and he is joined by just one fellow Democrat in the House, Representative Dan Lipinski of Illinois.