Democrats put focus on transgender community at LGBTQ summit

Democrats at the state and national level on Wednesday advocated for legislation that would extend more protections to the LGBTQ community, with a particular focus on transgender individuals.

Speaking during The Hill’s “America’s Unfinished Business: An LGBTQ+ Summit," Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, spoke to The Hill’s Steve Clemons about the dangers of “culture wars” on LGBTQ rights, particularly for members of the trans community.

“The new culture wars are specifically targeting the trans community. Since transphobia remains more socially acceptable than homophobia, the Republicans are waging a cynical campaign of scapegoating and fearmongering that specifically demonizes the trans community,” Torres said.

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In 2020, Torres was elected as one of the first openly LGBTQ Black men to Congress and as the first openly LGBTQ Afro-Latino member of Congress.

The House recently voted on a bill Torres had introduced to “promote credit fairness for LGBTQ-owned businesses.” It fell short of the two-thirds supermajority needed for passage under an expedited process typically used for noncontroversial bills. The vote was 248-177, with support from 31 Republicans.

Oregon Gov. Kate BrownKate BrownStates turning to National Guard for COVID-19 help as omicron surges Oregon declares state of emergency as area braces for winter storm Oregon extends state of emergency due to omicron spread MORE (D), who also spoke at Wednesday’s event sponsored by Capital One and Philip Morris International, talked about the importance of not leaving “behind our trans brothers and sisters.”

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Brown, who identifies as bisexual and was the nation’s first openly LGBTQ governor when elected in 2014, emphasized the importance of legislation to prohibit discrimination for the “entire LGBTQIA community.”

In 2019, Brown signed an executive order that updated definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity to cover more residents under Oregon’s nondiscrimination law.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats are pushing for passage of the Equality Act, which Torres described as the “Holy Grail” of the LGBTQ+ Equality caucus. The legislation would prohibit discrimination based on “sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

The House passed the measure earlier this year in a 224-206 vote, with support from just three Republicans. The bill is now awaiting action in the Senate.

“The Equality Act is based on a simple proposition: that no one should be fired or evicted or denied critical services or accommodations simply because of who you are or whom you love. Everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law regardless of your sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Torres.