Political Notes: Padilla pledges to push for Equality Act if given full term

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday May 23, 2022
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U.S. Senator Alex Padilla. Photo: Courtesy CA Secretary of State's office
U.S. Senator Alex Padilla. Photo: Courtesy CA Secretary of State's office

With omnibus federal LGBTQ rights legislation unlikely to be brought up for a vote in the U.S. Senate this year, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-California) is pledging to continue to fight for what is known as the Equality Act if elected to a full six-year term this November.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said he will sign the bill into law if it gets to his desk. He reiterated his call for passage of the Equality Act in his first State of the Union speech in March, telling members of Congress "and for our LGBTQ+ Americans, let's finally get the bipartisan Equality Act to my desk."

Among its provisions are anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. It would amend existing civil rights laws and several laws regarding employment with the federal government so they explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics.

The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex. Gay Congressmember David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) introduced the Equality Act in the House, while Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, a lesbian, did so in the Senate.

The House of Representatives passed it last year with a bipartisan vote of 224-206, but due to the filibuster in the Senate, which means the support of 60 senators is required in order to bring a bill up for a vote, the legislation is all but dead this congressional session. The chamber is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, and it is unlikely there are 10 GOP senators who would vote in support of holding a vote on the bill.

Thus, following this year's midterm elections, lawmakers will need to reintroduce the Equality Act in 2023. Padilla told the Bay Area Reporter that he would continue to fight for passage of the bill as long as he is serving in Congress.

"If elected to a full term in the Senate, I will continue fighting for a future in which the full civil and human rights of LGBTQ+ individuals are recognized. The assaults on the LGBTQ+ community that we see happening across the country underscore the urgency of passing legislation at the federal level that protects the rights of all LGBTQ+ Americans. I pledge to champion federal legislation, like the Equality Act, that guarantees equal protection for all," wrote Padilla in the candidate questionnaire he filled out for the B.A.R.

Governor Gavin Newsom named Padilla, 49, formerly California's secretary of state, as the Golden State's junior senator in December 2020 following the election that November of former U.S. Senator Kamala Harris as the vice president-elect. Padilla is California's first Latino senator in Congress.

He is running among a crowded field of lesser-known candidates for the Senate seat on the June 7 primary ballot, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will advance to the fall election. Should Padilla do so, as expected, he is nearly assured of being elected come November. (Padilla is on the ballot twice, first for the full six-year term and then to complete the rest of Harris' term through January.)

Padilla has earned endorsements from various LGBTQ groups, including statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California, the B.A.R., and both the Alice B. Toklas and Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic clubs.

Among the bills he has authored in the Senate is the recently introduced LGBTQ Business Equal Credit Enforcement and Investment Act, which would ensure that LGBTQ-owned businesses are afforded equal opportunity to access credit and capital, Padilla noted in his questionnaire.

"I have also been proud to work on legislation to support small businesses, including LGBTQ-owned businesses," he wrote. "Last year, I introduced the bipartisan Revitalizing Small and Local Businesses Act, which would help fund nonprofit assistance for small and local businesses in both urban and rural areas."

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Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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