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Biden calls for passage of Equality Act in speech to Congress

by Chris Johnson, Washington Blade

President Joe Biden announced support for the Equality Act during his April 28 speech before a joint session of Congress. Standing behind him were Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Screengrab
President Joe Biden announced support for the Equality Act during his April 28 speech before a joint session of Congress. Standing behind him were Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Screengrab  

President Joe Biden, delivering his first joint speech before Congress on the eve of the 100th day of his presidency, urged Congress to pass the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ people against discrimination, signaling support for transgender youth amid a flurry of attacks in state legislatures.

"I also hope Congress will get to my desk the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ Americans," Biden said during the April 28 speech. "To all transgender Americans watching at hone, especially young people who are so brave: I want to know your president has your back."

Although the House of Representatives has acted to pass the Equality Act, the legislation has remained at an impasse in the U.S. Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster. Biden had pledged during his presidential campaign to sign the Equality Act within his first 100 days in office, but has fallen short of that goal upon that milestone.

It remains to be seen whether Biden in his joint speech before Congress will create new traction for the Equality Act. In 2010, when former President Barack Obama brought up "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal in his State of the Union speech, it made waves a led to Congress passing legislation that year during the lame duck session.

Biden included the Equality Act in a speech where he articulated other agenda items, including passage of health care, corporate tax increases and the DREAM Act. Seated behind Biden were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Vice President Kamala Harris, marking the first time in history two women were seated behind a U.S. president in a speech before a joint session of Congress.

Both women hail from San Francisco. Pelosi has been the city's longtime congresswoman and Harris once served as district attorney, before being elected as California's attorney general. She won election to the U.S. Senate in 2016 and served there before launching her presidential bid. Once she dropped out of the race, she became the favorite to be Biden's vice presidential pick.

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