Richmond-area freshmen Congressman Don McEachin joins House LGBT Equality Caucus
In addition to championing environmental issues and supporting Planned Parenthood, Virginia’s newest Congressman, Donald McEachin, has declared himself an ally of the LGBT community and joined the House LGBT Equality caucus.
“During my time in Virginia’s General Assembly, I was a strong advocate for opportunity, equality, and justice in the LGBT community, introducing critical civil rights legislation,” said McEachin who replaced Randy Forbes in Virginia’s 4th district this year after more than after then two decades in the Virginia General Assembly. “I look forward to continuing this work at the federal level.”
The House LGBT Caucus functions as a resource for LGBT and ally congressmen and women, and helps garner support for inclusive legislation dealing with equal rights, discriminatory laws, and combating hate-motivated violence “regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”
House representatives of the US Congress formed the caucus in 2008 for the purpose of advancing equality in the U.S. and around the world. Founding members were openly-gay former Representative Barney Frank (D) and lesbian former Representative-turned Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (D). Currently, there are 103 members, six of whom openly identify on the LGBT spectrum. These six people serves as the co-chairs of the caucus.
The caucus strives for bipartisan support, though the majority of its composition is Democrats. Of the 103 total members, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) and Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) are the two Republicans who help champion LGBT rights.
McEachin’s tenure in the GA gave plenty of opportunities for the elected official to show his support for Virginia’s LGBTQ citizens. He often authored or co-sponsored inclusive legislation and lead press-events supporting LGBTQ issues. Most recently, he co-sponsored inclusive non-discrimination laws in housing and public employment during the 2016 GA, though both bills were killed in the GOP-controlled House.
Then-Senator McEachin standing with Sen. Adam Ebbin during the 2016 General Assembly
“Every journey starts with a single step,” McEachin said. “There were times in the Virginia legislation where we couldn’t get bills out of committee, and when we got them out of committee and they would get to the floor, they’d pass one chamber. So I think it matters that you stand up and speak out regardless of what you perceive has the ability to pass legislation. It’s important for my constituents to know that I am there fighting for them.”
While only representing about a quarter of Congress, the House LGBT Equality Caucus is looking to step up its game as Republican’s assume control of the House, Senate and Executive branch. And that work is increasingly important for LGBTQs nation-wide as the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) gains traction.
FADA, if passed and signed like President Trump has promised, would allow people and businesses to act on their belief that marriage and sex should only be between a man and a woman; if FADA passes, people and businesses would have the right to discriminate against LGBT families and individuals because of their own personal beliefs about same-sex relationships.
“Activist judges and executive orders issued by Presidents who have no regard for the Constitution have put these protections in jeopardy,” President Trump wrote in a statement on his campaign website in September 2016. “If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths.”
It’s also apparent that Vice President Pence is no fan of LGBT equality. While Governor of Indiana, he passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is similar to FADA, which was later watered down after intense scrutiny from the business and LGBTQ community.
“The ‘License to Discriminate Act’ (as we’ve come to call it) occupies much of our time,” said Roddy Flynn, Executive Director of the House LGBT Caucus, in an interview with GayRVA. “Unfortunately, radical conservatives have started to use the guise of “religious freedom” to justify blatant discrimination against LGBT people and women.”
According to Flynn, FADA is unnecessary because there are already existing laws to protect clergy from being forced to perform same-sex weddings if they do not wish to do so. There is also protection for a church’s tax-exempt status if it refuses to perform a same-sex wedding.
“‘The License to Discriminate Act’ gives a government blessing to businesses and nonprofits to deny services to LGBT families,” Flynn said. “If the bill becomes law, even in states where LGBT couples are protected by state law, employers would be able to refuse [family] leave and deny survivor benefits for same-sex spouses. Shelters that receive federal funding would be permitted to turn away LGBT families in need… We’re working to make sure members of Congress and the public understand the true impact of the bill, and don’t just buy the conservative spin.”
McEachin has promised to continue his legacy of inclusive politics, and we’ll keep an eye on him as he hits new heights at the Federal level.
“Come down and see us and come down and work with us.”August 26, 2015
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