Senator Lindsey Graham Promises to Talk the Gay Equality Act Away

Friday March 19, 2021

Senator Lindsey Graham promises to talk the gay Equality Act away.

The Independent reports that, if necessary, the South Carolina Republican plans to filibuster in the old school way against the Equality Act. "I would talk until I fell over to make sure we don't go to ballot harvesting and voting by mail without ID," he said in an interview Sean Hannity on Fox News this week, referring to Democratic legislation to expand voting access.

"I would talk until I fell over to make sure that the Equality Act doesn't become law, destroying the difference between a man and woman in our law," Mr Graham said about the proposal that would ban discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Why he is promising to bloviate is because President Biden favors a return to the "talking filibuster," which would "force the minority party to talk without stopping on the Senate floor in order to shut down consideration of a bill. No bathroom breaks, nothing," writes The Independent.

"Current Senate rules put the onus on the majority to accrue 60 votes to end debate on legislation, setting up a final vote on the actual bill. In effect, that means legislation requires a three-fifths majority to pass the Senate, as opposed to the simple 50 per cent majority mandated in the US Constitution."

Newsweek reports Graham said the president should not underestimate the resolve of Republicans, adding that if talking is what it would take to prevent a bill from passing, he personally would do it.

"Here's what Biden needs to understand. If you go to the talking filibuster, we will take the floor to stop HR 1," the South Carolina lawmaker told Fox News program Hannity, referring to the bill to expand voting rights.

"I would talk until I fell over to make sure that we don't go to ballot harvesting and voting by mail without voter ID," he added.

If the bill makes it out of the Judiciary Committee to be voted on by the full Senate, the filibuster will be used as a tool by the Republicans opposed to the bill to keep it from being voted on. "Although Democrats hold the tie-breaking presidential vote, the bill must meet a 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. This means that LGBT+ advocates have to find at least 10 Republicans to vote in favor of the Equality Act," writes Pink News.

The Equality Act was given its first hearing with the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, which has made an internet sensation out of sixteen-year-old Stella Keating, whose eloquent testimony needed to be heard by the tin-eared Graham. "Supporters of the bill — called the Equality Act — have never been more buoyed by their chances of success with Democrats controlling all of the levers of federal power, but the Judiciary Committee proceeding Wednesday revealed stark battle lines between Democrats and conservatives," writes ABC News

"The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity." reports the Washington Post. "It would include, among other areas, employment, education, housing and public accommodations — a category it would also broaden. What makes it more sweeping than past anti-discrimination measures is it explicitly overrides the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which prohibits the federal government from 'substantially burdening' individuals' exercise of religion unless it is for a 'compelling government interest.'

"While enacted in 1993 with overwhelming bipartisan support, the RFRA in recent years has been most loudly championed by social conservatives. LGBTQ and civil liberties advocates say the RFRA has been used to allow discrimination.

"The Equality Act matches Americans' fast-moving rejection of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. More than 6 in 10 Americans say business owners should not be allowed to refuse services to LGBTQ people on the basis of religion."

Biden's complaint is based on the current broad rules regarding the filibuster. Currently, Pink News reports, "a senator doesn't have to talk endlessly to run out the clock on a bill — they can just have a staffer send an email saying they object, which counts as a filibuster."

Which means Graham and his fellow Republicans need only to send a email to prevent the bill from going to a vote, where — with 50 likely Democratic votes and Vice President Harris acting as the deal breaker — it would pass.

Nor does Graham think the current Senate would change the rules to a "talking filibuster". "When Hannity asked if Democrats could ever get rid of the filibuster, Graham frowned and shook his head," adds Pink News.

" 'Not with a 50-50 Senate,' he said, although he was forced to admit that could change if Democrats can pick up more Senate seats in 2022. Here's hoping."