The Republicans just lost control of the Senate. Here’s what it means for LGBT+ rights
The Georgia election results means the Republicans have just lost control of the US Senate, in an incredible victory for LGBT+ rights in America.
After ABC called the second Georgia run-off in favour of Jon Ossoff, Georgia has swung blue and with it handed control of the Senate to the Democrats.
The margins were extremely tight, but the race was called called on Wednesday (6 January), with Reverend Raphael Warnock also winning against Kelly Loeffler earlier in the day.
Neither of the two Republican senators running for election in Georgia, David Perdue and Loeffler, managed to draw a majority on election day (3 November), so they were forced into run-offs against their Democratic challengers, ultimately losing.
With Democrats winning both seats, the Senate will be equally split 50-50, and vice president-elect Kamala Harris will have a tie-breaking vote.
Though the news was overshadowed by a shocking violent insurrection at the US Capitol, the Georgia election results were hugely important for the queer community, as a Republican-controlled Senate could have blocked Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, putting LGBT+ rights at risk.
The Senate will now have a good chance of finally passing the Equality Act, which would protect LGBT+ people from discrimination in areas like employment, housing and education by amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
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If Biden is able to fulfil his promise to sign the act into law within his first 100 days as president, it will be transformative for LGBT+ rights in the US.
A Democrat-controlled Senate will also have a huge impact on trans rights specifically, as it will likely be able to put a stop to proposed anti-trans measures like bills put forward by Loeffler, seeking to legally erase transgender children.
Although is it likely that Biden would have used executive powers anyway to repeal Donald Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the military, a Democrat majority in the Senate will likely make this smoother. Biden has also vowed to support a ban on the gay and trans “panic” defence.
He’s also pledged to make it easier for trans people to update their government-issued IDs, including obtaining gender-neutral passports, and said he will back reforms that allow incarcerated trans people to change their legal names and gender identity on official documents.
With Democrats holding the White House, House of Representatives and Senate, a federal conversion therapy ban could also be on the horizon, as many Republicans have argued that a ban would infringe on religious freedom.