Today, House Republican leaders released their “Pledge to America,” outlining how they would govern should they win back control of the House in November.  While the document focuses heavily on economic issues, its “pledge” also includes hostility to LGBT equality, promising support for “traditional marriage” and, in a thinly-veiled attack on LGBT advances through legislation and the courts, criticizing actions that “thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values.”  While the document itself doesn’t tell as much more about how these Republicans would treat our community, the lengthy record of anti-LGBT efforts during a decade of Republican control of Congress speaks volumes.  LGBT people should see this “Pledge” for what it really is – a promise to try and turn back the clock on the LGBT equality on Capitol Hill.   

When anti-equality forces controlled Congress for a decade (1994-2005), they stymied any progress on LGBT issues, instead making attacks on our community part of their governing agenda.  Among these were:

  • Attempting twice to amend the U.S. Constitution to deny marriage equality to same-sex couples nationwide
  • Trying to strip federal courts of the authority to hear marriage equality cases
  • Blocking the District of Columbia’s local efforts to provide domestic partnership benefits to its employees and to fight astronomical rates of HIV infection through proven needle exchange programs
  • Cutting funding for HIV prevention, research and treatment despite a growing epidemic, while pouring federal dollars into disproven abstinence-only programs that exclude or even denigrate LGBT youth
  • Standing in the way of the appointment of openly-LGBT administration officials, like openly-gay Ambassador to Luxembourg James Hormel

A Congress controlled by anti-equality Republican leaders could very well return to this playbook, and even go further by:

  • Cutting Justice Department funds for enforcement of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
  • Trying to roll back Obama administration advances for LGBT people, like benefits for the partners of Foreign Service officers or hospital visitation protections, by threatening appropriations dollars for federal agencies
  • Standing in the way of the nomination of pro-equality federal judges

Under a Republican Congress, key positions that control the fate of pro-LGBT legislation would be held by notorious anti-equality legislators.   In such a world, for example:

  • The House and Senate could both be led by a group of legislators who, at best, rated a 20 on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for the 110th Congress.  In fact, potential House leaders Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence have consistently scored a perfect zero since they came to Congress.  The highest any potential Senate leaders – including Senators McConnell, Kyl, Thune and Cornyn – could muster on our Scorecard is a 20.     
  • Arizona Senator John McCain, the notorious opponent of repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, could become Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee could be led not by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, a supporter of marriage equality, but by Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who attacked then-Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan for opposing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as Dean of Harvard Law, arguing that in doing so she “punished the military, and demeaned our soldiers as they were courageously fighting for our country in two wars overseas”  
  • House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), a champion of the hate crimes law, could be replaced by Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who said expanding hate crimes protections “undermines one of the most basic principles of our criminal justice system — ‘equal justice for all.’”
  • The House Education and Labor Committee, where the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is considered, could be led by Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, who called ENDA “a significant departure from longstanding civil rights law” that could “lead to an explosion in litigation “
  • Instead of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), a longstanding leader on LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we could have Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who recently opposed a bill that would collect health data on LGBT people in an effort to address health disparities, saying, “for the life of me I do not see any reason at all to do this bill.” 

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