Senator Joe Manchin is the only Democrat to oppose LGBT Equality Act
44 out of 45 Democratic senators have backed a proposed LGBT+ rights law, but Senator Joe Manchin is refusing to do so.
Manchin, the senior United States senator from West Virginia, has voiced his opposition to the Equality Act, which would extend existing civil rights laws to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In a statement, Manchin said he supports ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, but could not support the law’s protections for transgender people.
Joe Manchin claims Equality Act needs ‘protections’ for schools with transgender students
He said: “I strongly support equality for all people and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. No one should be afraid of losing their job or losing their housing because of their sexual orientation.
“After speaking with local education officials in West Virginia, I am not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it, particularly with respect to students transitioning between genders in public schools.”
Manchin said he would “continue working with the sponsors of the bill to build broad bipartisan support and find a viable path forward for these critical protections so that I can vote in support of this bill.”
West Virginia is one of 30 US states that does not have state-level LGBT+ non-discrimination protections, meaning the federal bill would be crucial to affording equal rights to Manchin’s LGBT+ constituents.
LGBT+ rights campaigners: Equality Act ‘crucial’ to West Virginians
GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, said: “While it’s easy to understand Senator Joe Manchin’s concerns about the federal government’s power over local authorities, 58,000 LGBTQ West Virginians cannot have their safety remain on the line as they wait for their state government to defend them.
“The Equality Act presents an opportunity to protect LGBTQ people from harassment at schools, at work, or even in their homes in his home state of West Virginia – and that’s about as local as it gets.”
GLAAD has urged West Virginians to contact the senator and ask him to change his mind on the law.
Manchin, who has sat in the Senate since 2010, previously opposed same-sex marriage and opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
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The Equality Act has the overwhelming support of Democrats in the House of Representatives, where the party holds a majority.
However, the party has a 45-55 minority in the Senate, meaning the bill must unite all Democrats and win over several Republicans to stand any prospect of becoming law.
The bill was reintroduced to the House last week.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “While the President betrays our values with his [transgender military] ban, Congress is bringing our nation closer to equal liberty and justice for all with the Equality Act.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity deserve full civil rights protections – in the workplace and in every place, education, housing, credit, jury service [and] public accommodations.”