Taylor Swift, Cher, and Apple’s CEO Tim Cook joined a growing list of celebrities and corporations by Friday, calling on the US Senate to pass legislation expanding federal legal protection from discrimination, to LGBT+ Americans.
The Equality Act, which amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, in addition to race, religion, sex, and national origin, passed in the US House of Representatives on Thursday.
But for the Equality Act to become law, it must win 60 votes in the Senate, where there is a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans.
“YES!!! Fingers crossed and praying that the Senate will see trans and lgbtq rights as basic human rights,” Swift tweeted.
Cook, chief executive of Apple and one of the most prominent US corporate LGBT+ leaders, pledged his company’s support for the legislation, tweeting Congress needed to “get it done”.
In addition to Apple, more than 160 companies have also come out in public support of the bill in recent years, including Netflix, Amazon and Nike.
LGBT+ people often encounter prejudice in housing, credit, jury service, and public spaces, as only 22 US states, and the District of Columbia, prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The legislation passed in the Democrat-controlled House by a vote of 224 to 206, with Republicans almost uniformly opposed.
Several Republicans in the Senate have also expressed their opposition, including Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who said he would oppose the bill, unless it added a provision giving “strong religious liberty protections.”
Conservatives like Romney, and prominent religious groups, argue that nondiscrimination protections would infringe on Americans’ religious freedoms.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the only Republican to co-sponsor the bill when it was proposed in 2019, said in an interview with The Washington Blade that she would not do so again for similar reasons.
Gabriele Magni, a professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University, said the pair’s enmity to the bill came as no surprise.
“The opposition is strong because the conservative party, including Romney and Collins, are really not moderate on these issues,” Magni, who researches LGBT+ representation in US politics, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“In any other European country or Australia or Canada, they would be at the other end of the extreme, among far-right parties, those who oppose LGBTQ rights.”
LGBT+ advocates say they are confident the bill will become law, because of its popularity among the US public.
About 83% of Americans favour laws that protect LGBT+ people against discrimination, in jobs, public accommodation and housing, according to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.
“Any senator against The Equality Act is not only complicit with LGBTQ discrimination, but grossly out of touch with the bill’s widespread, bipartisan public support,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president of LGBT+ advocacy group GLAAD, said in a statement.
-Matthew Lavietes – Thomson Reuters Foundation