Tagline: Until the Work Is Done
Why We Fight for Do No Harm
May 29, 2018 at 12:00 pm

In This Section


By Valerie Ploumpis

It’s disheartening to know that one of the most important pro-LGBTQ legislative proposals has a snowball’s chance of passing in the current Congress, much less being signed into law by President Trump.

The bill, the ‘Do No Harm’ Act (S. 2918) was introduced by Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) last week and cosponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and a number of other Senate Democrats. If enacted, the proposal would go a very long way to curbing the ability of homophobic bakers and florists from discriminating against LGBTQ people because it would amend the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (commonly known as RFRA) from undercutting Federal civil protections including:

  • Protections against discrimination or the promotion of equal opportunity, such as those provided under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other law;
  • Labor laws covering wages, benefits, collective bargaining, and worker protections;
  • Protections against child abuse and exploitation;
  • Access to, information about, referrals for, provision of, or coverage of any healthcare item or service;
  • Goods or services to be provided to beneficiaries through government contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements; and
  • Public accommodations and the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, benefits, facilities, privileges, and advantages provided by the government.

The companion bill (H.R. 3222) was introduced in the House last July by Reps. Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), and now has 120 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats.

Unfortunately, ‘Do No Harm’ is likely to go nowhere in either the House or the Senate. As explained in a piece I wrote for the LA Blade, the Trump Administration has implemented a number of executive and regulatory changes to make it easier for bigots to cite their religious beliefs and moral objections to providing services to people of whom they disapprove, including LGBTQ people, women seeking abortions, trans and gender-nonconforming people needing medical or fertility treatment, and even children of same-sex couples. And to cement these changes, Trump has appointed dozens of far-right judicial nominees for lifetime seats on Federal courts across the country – virtually all of whom have been rubberstamped by Republican-controlled Senate.

But why expend energy on a bill that has no chance of passing?

Equality California’s DC office works to advance a wide range of pro-equality bills that have no realistic chance of passage this Congress, most notably the Equality Act (which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include Federal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity); the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act (which would require the Federal Trade Commission to treat so-called conversion therapy as a fraudulent practice); the Safe Schools Improvement Act (which would require elementary and middle schools to adopt anti-bullying and harassment safeguards and report to the Department of Education); the Every Child Deserves a Family Act (which would help LGBTQ foster children be placed in affirming homes and allow prospective LGBTQ parents to adopt or foster); and the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act, (which would repeal existing policies that allow legal HIV discrimination and require a national review of all federal (including US military) and state laws, policies, and judicial precedents that discriminate against people with HIV and AIDS).

But we do not regard our work on these bills and many others as an exercise in futility or a waste of energy. On the contrary: working in coalition with a wide range of progressive organizations, some LGBTQ, and some not, builds our strong and supportive relationships that we rely on to fight proposed funding cuts and anti-equality nominees.  Investing in working partnerships will pay dividends for years to come, not just for Equality California, but for all. Another reason we advance good legislation is because it encourages Members of Congress to continue to think creatively about how a more equitable and just country can be realized, and uplifts their efforts. We fight for good legislation because it educates the public – many people, including in our own community, believe the stereotype of the lives of fabulous, wealthy gay white men and have no idea about the stark health and income disparities between the LGBTQ community and the general population.

And we fight for good legislation because one day – maybe in the 2018 midterm elections – Democrats will win back both houses of Congress. And one day the Trump Administration will be gone. Armed with allies and backed by our 800,000 members (and growing), Equality California will be ready.

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