By rating members of Congress based on their support for LGBT-relevant Congressional actions, the HRC Congressional Scorecard is able to track how support for LGBT equality on Capitol Hill has changed over time. This year’s edition makes it perfectly clear that elections have consequences. The extreme Tea Party Republicans elected in droves in 2010 are broadly anti-LGBT, and as a result the number of House members scoring a zero percent increased dramatically from 144 in the last Congress to 219 this session. On the Senate side, the average score also declined to 35 percent even as the number scoring a zero dropped from 32 to 14.
Make no mistake about it, this increased hostility has a real and negative impact on the lives of individuals and families across this country. In dozens of states, Congressional inaction means it is still perfectly legal for LGBT people to be fired from their job for living openly. And blatant discrimination persists in the form of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), even though Congress has the tools at its disposal to set things right.
This is also the first year that HRC has included individual members’ support of marriage equality on the Scorecard. After all, it was only a few short years ago that Congress was debating whether to enshrine discrimination in the United States Constitution. And as public support has swung dramatically in favor of marriage equality, fair-minded Americans of all stripes should know that only slightly more than one third of their elected representatives share this opinion.
Despite the headwinds, supporters of equality continue to push forward. During this Congressional session on the Senate side, the Judiciary Committee approved legislation repealing DOMA while another Senate committee advanced legislation promoting tax fairness for LGBT couples. The broader movement of public opinion in support of LGBT equality will help over time as well, as Congress normally lags behind popular opinion by several years.
Yet there is a real urgency to do more right now. As the American people prepare to go to the polls in a few short weeks, we can’t forget the decisions we make now determine the fate of Congressional action — or inaction — in the years to come. This November is our chance to chart a new course. It’s time to stand up for pro-equality elected officials, Democrat and Republican, and demand a fairer, more inclusive future for all Americans.
Griffin is president Human Rights Campaign.