The first ever hearing on the Equality Act was help in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday (April 2), with most of the eight witnesses supporting the legislation, according to LGBTQ Nation.
Chair of the committee Representative Jerrod Nadler called the hearing.
“Nearly 50 years after the Stonewall Uprising, there is still no federal law that explicitly prohibits millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender Americans from being denied medical care, fired from their jobs, or thrown out of their homes simply because of who they are,” Nadler said. “It is time Congress changes that.”
A number of witnesses were called to show support of the legislation, which aims to include anti-discrimination protections of sexual orientation and gender identity under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One such witness was Dennis Wiley, pastor of the Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ.
“Having gone through what I went through in the segregated South has sensitized me towards discrimination against anybody,” Wiley said. “No two discriminations are the same… but it’s still discrimination.”
Jami Contreras also testified. Last year, doctors refused to treat her infant daughter because Jami and her wife Krista were lesbians. Carter Brown, who was fired because of his gender identity, also testified.
Carter Brown, who was fired from his job because he is trans, testified at a Congressional hearing on the importance of passing the #EqualityAct as a means of survival for #LGBTQ Americans. #HR5 pic.twitter.com/cBamRMWWMJ
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 2, 2019
Not all the witnesses supported the Equality Act. Two were brought in by Republicans to share their arguments against it.
Julia Beck, a lesbian Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) said she opposed protecting gender identity under the Equality Act, while Duke Law School professor Doriane Lambelet Coleman said she was concerned with transgender women forcing cis women out of sports.
Republican representatives asked questions and commented on the Equality Act, focusing on trans people and upholding the myth that transgender women are men who want to reap the benefits of womanhood.
Representative Louie Gohmert implied that it was naïve to believe transgender people were honest about their gender identity, while Representative Matt Gaetz said he was against the discrimination of the LGBTQ community but worried that “bad actors” would take advantage of programs set up for women. Gaetz even proposed the idea of Trump transitioning and considering himself the first female president.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, during a hearing on transgender rights, wonders what would happen if Trump were to declare himself the first female president. pic.twitter.com/uYFheZVjUN
— Alexander Nazaryan (@alexnazaryan) April 2, 2019
“Consider this possibility — if President Trump were to say, I am now the first female president? Who would celebrate that?” Gaetz said. “Would those who support the legislation think that’s a good thing, or would they be dismayed? Bad actors have already weaponized some ostensible equality laws for their own benefit.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Primila Jayapal shared her personal account of being mother to a “gender non-conforming child,” bringing the room to tears.
“My beautiful, now-22 year old child told me last year that they were gender non-conforming. And over the last year, I have come to understand from a deeply personal mother’s perspective,” she said. “I came to understand what their newfound freedom—it is the only way I can describe what has happened to my beautiful child — what their newfound freedom to wear a dress, to rid themselves of some conformist stereotype of who they are, to be able to express who they are at their real core.”
“Since this deeply impactful moment last year, my child’s embracing of their non-conforming gender identity,” she continued, “and all it allows in their brilliance, their self-expression, the only thought I wake up with every day is, ‘My child is free. My child is free to be who they are.’ And in that freedom comes a responsibility for us as legislators to protect that freedom to be who they area.”
The Equality Act was reintroduced into the House of Representatives in mid-March.