Romney seeks religious exemption to LGBT Equality Act

Utah’s junior senator Mitt Romney said he would oppose the Equality Act, which would expand protections from Anti-LGBTQ discrimination under federal law.

In a statement in response to QSaltLake Magazine’s request for comment, Romney spokesperson Arielle Mueller wrote, “Sen. Romney believes that strong religious liberty protections are essential to any legislation on this issue, and since those provisions are absent from this particular bill, he is not able to support it.”

The House vote is expected to take place this coming week.

The Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to expand the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people. Sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in the House and Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-Ore.) in the Senate, it is likely to pass in the Democratic-controlled House. In the Senate, however, with its 50-50 party split, support will be needed from 10 Republicans to reach the 60 votes to end a filibuster on the legislation.

Bill supporters were counting on Romney to be one of the ten Republican votes needed to pass the Equality Act. without his vote, a path to its passage looks insurmountable.

President Biden campaigned on signing the Act in his first 100 days in office. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week Biden “stands by” his promise.

Romney supported Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) attack on transgender kids in sports during the hearing for Miguel Cardona’s Education Secretary confirmation. Paul said transgender participation in sports amounts to allowing boys in girls’ events and was a “bizarre” idea.

Romney echoed those comments during the confirmation hearing.

“That’s not something I say very frequently, but [Paul] made a very, very good point,” Romney said. “I’ve got pictures of my eight granddaughters, amongst some grandsons, behind me. They shouldn’t be competing with people who are physiologically in an entirely different category.”

The Equality Act doesn’t explicitly address school sports, but it would prohibit discrimination against transgender kids in education and federal programs. This would suggest barring transgender kids from school sports would be prohibited. 

Major sports associations, including the Olympics and the NCAA, have established internal rules based on sex characteristics, such as hormone levels, to govern allowing transgender athletes to compete based in those leagues on their gender identity.

In a statement to the Log Cabin Republicans in 1994 as he was running against Se. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) for his senate seat, Romney said he would not only back the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — legislation to ban anti-gay discrimination in employment — but “if possible broaden [it] to include housing and credit.”  Romney ended up losing in his challenge to Kennedy.

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