(Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has promised to put top priority on passing the LGBTQ rights legislation known as the Equality Act, hoping to sign what would be a landmark civil rights law within 100 days, should he win Tuesday’s election.
Biden, a leading voice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights as vice president under Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017, also pledged in an interview with the Philadelphia Gay News to expand queer rights internationally by making equality a centerpiece of U.S. diplomacy if he assumes office in January.
Although he has championed the Equality Act before, his priority is significant, given the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic and a host of other executive orders and regulatory actions that would compete for attention in the early days of a Biden administration.
He outlined his agenda for LGBTQ rights in an email interview with Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal, a nationally known advocate for gay rights since the 1970s.
“I will make enactment of the Equality Act a top legislative priority during my first 100 days – a priority that Donald Trump opposes,” Biden said of the Republican incumbent he is challenging.
The Trump administration opposed the Equality Act, saying it would “undermine parental and conscience rights,” and has also restricted queer rights in the name of religious liberty.
But the Trump campaign said Trump was the first Republican presidential nominee to mention LGBTQ rights in his 2016 acceptance speech and had appointed LGBTQ people to the courts and his cabinet.
The Democratic Party “has taken the votes of LGBT Americans for granted for far too long, and now they’re finding a home in a Republican Party,” spokeswoman Samantha Zager said by email.
The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act in 2019, but the legislation stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. Biden would need the Democrats to hold the House and take control of the Senate to ensure passage.
The Equality Act would protect U.S. citizens from discrimination based on sexual identity and gender identity by amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most revered accomplishments of the civil rights movement, which banned discrimination based on race, religion, sex and national origin.
On the international front, Biden also promised to defend American diplomats who speak out for LGBTQ rights in countries that are hostile to queer people and promised to use “America’s full range of diplomatic tools,” including private diplomacy, public statements and United Nations agencies, to promote equality.
“I’ll stand up to bullies and once more put human rights at the center of America’s engagement with the world,” Biden said.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Clarence Fernandez)