White House hedges on Equality Act

The White House isn’t ready to endorse the Equality Act. At least not yet.

The bill, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add corresponding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as add new protections in housing and other areas, has 209 Democratic co-sponsors — up from the 195 it had when it was introduced. But while the administration says they are supportive of the bill’s principles, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday that they are still reviewing the bill’s details before lending it their support.

As he said, quoted by Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade:

The White House, via Wikimedia Commons

The White House, via Wikimedia Commons

This is a piece of legislation that the White House does continue to review. There’s significant consequences to this bill going into effect. It has an impact on housing law and a variety of other policies in the federal government, so it’s something that’s still being carefully reviewed by the administration.

The president believes the passage of comprehensive legislation that protects LGBT Americans from discrimination would mark an important step toward that outcome…So, we would applaud the efforts of members of Congress to try to advance that goal, but when it comes to this specific piece of legislation, it’s something that is still under review by the administration.

Earnest did not specify which parts of the bill could prove to be problematic, or what specific issues would lead to the administration foreclosing on the possibility of endorsing it.

In a familiar fashion, the White House’s position on the Equality Act puts the president a step behind Vice President Biden, who said on Saturday that Congress “will pass” the bill in a speech at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual dinner on Saturday. Hillary Clinton has also expressed support for the bill.

There are a couple of reasons why the administration might be hedging its bets on the bill. Get EQUAL, for one, has expressed concerns that opening the Civil Rights Act up for amendments could allow congressional Republicans to weaken the protections currently on the books. The NAACP, likely for similar reasons, has yet to endorse the bill.

Regardless as to whether the administration shares these concerns, they could still use them as a reason to avoid spending political capital on an issue they don’t feel they can win. After all, the bill has practically no chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress. And with only one month left with John Boehner as Speaker of the House before an even more intransigent Republican takes his place, their chances of getting any legislative wins are already slim. So they may want to avoid sinking political capital into what they feel is a futile venture.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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17 Responses to “White House hedges on Equality Act”

  1. BeccaM says:

    That’s why reminders that LGBT community support isn’t to be taken for granted may be necessary, I agree.

  2. Indigo says:

    I’m not entirely sure how far that “good will” reaches. We might as well let it be known with the distribution of our generous donations that squishy will not do.

  3. Indigo says:


  4. 2karmanot says:


  5. 2karmanot says:

    Hell, they’re putting us in the bus and tossing it in the Potomac.

  6. Rachael Ridlon says:

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  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    The problem is not just Obama, or Trump, or Jebya. or HRH HRC, who didn’t even bother to end her support for Bill Clinton’s DOMA until the last minute. “Hillary Clinton evolved on same-sex marriage within the first 72 hours of her presidential run, as her campaign said Wednesday that the former secretary of state now backs marriage equality as a US constitutional right.

    The about-face, dropped as Clinton was preparing the second of two progressive-leaning appearances in Iowa, represents a significant – if not completely unexpected – shift from her previous statements that same-sex marriage should be legislated state-by-state rather than on the federal level.” http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/apr/15/hillary-clinton-gay-marriage-presidential-campaign?CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

    The problem is that both the Democrat and the Republicans s & R’s are competing political gangs that either support or oppose racsim, homophobia, misogyny, wars of aggression, union busting, immigrant bashing depending on their voting strategies and how those policies impact the wealth of the rich.

    Our strategy has to be to withdraw support to both those parties and at the same time continue to build movements for mass action and direct action. Those are the kind of movements that forced the Democrats hand on DADT, the (however wimpy) Hate Crimes Bill and that forced the Supremes to ditch DOMA. Unfortunately, even bigger efforts to pass ENDA ran up against a brick wall of opposition from Obama, Pelosi and Reid in 2009 and 2010, which is one of the reasons the Democrats lost 27 million votes in 2010.

  8. Bill_Perdue says:


  9. FLL says:

    This is the same Administration which let its own Department of Justice defend DOMA for years by using slanderous anti-gay legal arguments…

    Just as well that the 22nd Amendment guarantees a different president after the next election. Time for a change. No committee to erect any Obama statues in parks. In my opinion, the federal judiciary did a fine job with marriage equality. Now on to something new, like maybe civil rights in employment, housing and public accommodation.

  10. BeccaM says:

    Translation: The old Democratic party habit of deciding whether or not it is politically expedient to toss LGBTs under the bus is back.

    “Spending political capital” really only happens during the horsetrading phase of legislation, when it’s presumed the bill will actually come up for a vote. At that point, if it happens, the lines are drawn and positions matter. Right now and for the next year and a half (approximately), it makes no difference — except in the important symbolic fashion — whether the Obama Administration expresses support for an unequivocally pro-LGBT civil rights bill which will never make it out of committee. So in reality, the analysis they’re actually doing is whether or not they think it will be better for them and the Dems to be seen as potentially squishy on gay rights and open to the notion of allowing religiously-motivated bigotry to override those rights in some or many instances.

    This is the same Administration which let its own Department of Justice defend DOMA for years by using slanderous anti-gay legal arguments and which, in my opinion, tried to set up the DADT repeal to fail. And the same party which, in 2010, tried to blame LGBTs for their electoral losses.

    What they’re really doing right now is deciding whether they want to spend some of the good will they’ve garnered from the LGBT community since then in exchange for calming the fee-fees of the homophobes, the ones who aren’t happy unless they know they can make others unhappy.

  11. FLL says:

    Unlike marriage equality, civil rights legislation can only be accomplished by Congress. I’m guessing that most readers understand the basic mechanics: two-thirds of Congress can override a presidential veto but nothing can start legislation if an intransigent House of Representative won’t go along. The Democratic presidential candidates are in favor of the Equality Act and the Republican presidential candidates are opposed to it. However, even if the Democratic ticket wins the White House, the Equality Act is a nonstarter until the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.

    That brings us to the source of the problem, which is the Republican victories at the state levels in 2010, resulting in the gerrymandering of U.S. House districts. Sooooo… if a hypothetical voter in 2010 said “I think I’ll vote for a Republican governor and state legislators just to be a smartass,” the effects of that were far-reaching. The term “smartass” does not necessarily imply that this hypothetical voter was intelligent enough to realize that 2010 was a census year, which would determine the boundaries of U.S. House districts. “Smartass” is often a synonym for “just plain stupid.” No wonder judges don’t like smartasses (which is why marriage equality won in the federal judiciary).

  12. Indigo says:

    Who said she was?

  13. 2karmanot says:

    And Ms. Piggy ain’t no virgin!

  14. nicho says:

    Don’t worry folks. In between the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals, Obama is evolving.

  15. Don Chandler says:

    love that line.

  16. Don Chandler says:

    “After all, the bill has practically no chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress. “– alas, lgbtq is still a wedge issue for the GOP. The haters are out in force.

  17. Indigo says:

    “All animals are equal. Pigs are more equal.” -Animal Farm by George Orwell.

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