It’s January of an odd-numbered year, which means a new Congress has just convened. Unlike the previous two years, we now have divided party control, making legislating even more difficult. While progress may be slowed, it is essential that NCLR and other LGBTQ civil rights organizations continue to have a presence on Capitol Hill, reminding members of the House and Senate that we expect them to act in the best interests of all of their constituents.
So what’s on NCLR’s policy wish list this year?
Our movement and our nation achieved a historic victory at the end of 2022 when Congress passed and President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act. This law will protect the legal rights of same-sex and interracial couples and is an important safeguard given the alarming direction in which the U.S. Supreme Court is moving with respect to basic rights and liberties. We want Congress to build on that success by enacting comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people so that we can be secure in our jobs, our education, our housing, and more.
Of course, there is more to be done on the families front too. Following last year’s regressive Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – which removed constitutional recognition of the right to abortion – many states are moving aggressively to ban or severely restrict access to abortion care. This is unacceptable, and we need strong federal legislative responses, such as the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would create a federal right to abortion care, and the EACH Act, which would prevent bans on insurance coverage for that care.
But the proponents of these state-level attacks on abortion aren’t stopping there. Some of these proposals are so extreme that they would also prohibit in-vitro fertilization and possibly other forms of assisted reproduction, which are essential for enabling many queer families to have children. Congress must step in to preempt any such draconian laws from interfering with our ability to form our families.
And speaking of children, we need Congress to pass the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would prohibit federally-funded child welfare service providers from discriminating against children, families, and individuals because of their religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex traits), and marital status.
NCLR also supports bills such as the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act and the Prohibition of Medicaid Funding for Conversion Therapy Act, to complement our state-level policy work and litigation to combat the scourge of conversion therapy. We also want to see stronger federal oversight of the so-called “troubled teen” industry, given the overrepresentation of queer youth in these settings in which significant abuse, including conversion therapy, occurs.
In 2023, NCLR will continue to support the Raise the Wage Act and the Medicare for All Act. These bills would, respectively, increase the federal minimum wage for the first time since 2009 and gradually end the subminimum wage for tipped workers, and establish a single-payer health care system.
These are tough times to try to advance proactive laws to protect our community. But NCLR’s staff in Washington, DC will continue to press members of Congress to do the right thing, reminding them of the people they took an oath to represent.