On Friday, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to modify the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people in “public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system.”[cq-efa]] All Democrats present and eight Republicans voted for the bill; all 173 votes against were cast by Republicans.
Despite a sea change in the past decade in public opinion regarding gay rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage nationally, 30 states have no laws protecting people, and proponents argued that the measure would create a national standard.
Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), who is openly gay and the chief sponsor of the measure, called it “a life-saving bill that addresses some of the fundamental inequality that still exists.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in a speech from the floor, spoke eloquently. “When people say to me, it’s easy for you to be for some of these things because you are from San Francisco, people are so tolerant there. I say, ‘Tolerant? That is a condescending word to me,” she said. “‘This is not about tolerance, this is about respect of the LGBTQ community. This is about taking pride.’ And that is what we do.” She continued on:
To bring our nation closer to the founding promise of liberty and justice for all, we, today, pass the Equality Act and finally, fully end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. LGBTQ people deserve full civil rights protections in the workplace, in everyplace — in education, housing, credit, jury duty, service and public accommodations. No one should be forced to lose his or her job, their home or to live in fear because of who they are and whom they love.
This is personal, it’s not just about policy, but about people. Earlier this year, I received a letter from a trans woman living in San Francisco who faced threats, stalking and harassment because of who she is. This is what she says in her communication, “The fear is very much there. All I want to do is live my life like anyone else. Please keep seeing me.”
Today, and for all days, we say to all of our friends, we see you, we support you, we stand with you with pride. . . . This is not just an act of Congress that we are taking for the LGBTQ community, this is progress for America.
In fact, public opinion has shifted dramatically in recent years. It is only among Trump’s core base, conservative evangelicals, that the yen to discriminate in service and employment remains. PRRI, a think tank that studies values, politics and religion, conducted surveys from 2011 through 2018. It found, “Nearly seven in ten (69%) Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. Support for these protections has remained steady over the past few years, with around seven in ten Americans reporting that they favor nondiscrimination provisions for LGBT people in 2017 (70%), 2016 (72%), and 2015 (71%).”
Not surprisingly, young Americans are more supportive of LGBTQ rights than older Americans. “More than three-quarters (76%) of younger Americans (ages 18-29) favor such laws, compared to 59% of seniors (ages 65 and older).”
Moreover, support is now bipartisan, with “Democrats (79%), independents (70%), and Republicans (56%) reporting that they favor laws that would shield LGBT people from various kinds of discrimination.”
The one group that remains opposed to nondiscrimination for LBGTQ Americans is evangelicals. “Less than half (47%) of white evangelicals who identify as Republicans support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, compared to 58% of white evangelical independents and 71% of white evangelical Democrats.” This sentiment goes beyond white Americans. “Less than half (49%) of nonwhite evangelicals who identify as Republican favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections, compared to 62% who identify as independent and 62% who identify as Democrat.”
The glass-half-empty view is that evangelicals, a substantial segment of Americans, refuse to extend protections against discrimination to others that they demand themselves. Many insist Christians like themselves are the real victims. This lack of empathy, and the corresponding rejection of the golden rule, should not be surprising given their rabid support of a cruel, misogynistic, racist and xenophobic president.
It is even more distressing that this group retains an iron grip on the GOP. The latter continues to write out those Americans (e.g., LGBTQ, immigrants) out of the American creed (“All men are created equal.”). In doing so, they betray their un-American bigotry.
The glass-half-full view is that we have had a rapid, dramatic change in public opinion on LGBTQ discrimination among Americans of different races, parties, ages and genders. Even within the evangelical community, the anti-LGBTQ sentiment is running out of steam: “A substantial majority (63%) of young white evangelical Protestants (ages 18-29) favor LGBT nondiscrimination protections, compared to less than half (45%) of white evangelical Protestant seniors (ages 65 and older). Nearly as many (44%) white evangelical Protestant seniors oppose such protections, while 10% offer no opinion. There is a similar age gap between younger black Protestants and black Protestant seniors (75% vs. 55%).”
Increasingly, older evangelicals stand apart, a shrinking group out of step with the country as a whole, in a country that values inclusion and equal opportunity. Whether evangelicals like it or not, Americans increasingly reject discrimination against any minority group and welcome immigrants. Simply put, evangelical conservatives are slowly losing a grip on the country — which explains their infatuation with a president who wants to transport us back to the 1950s.
For their votes, and their invocation of the American creed, we can say to those 236 members of the House (only eight of them Republicans), well done, ladies and gentlemen.