“No person should be discriminated against, no person should be bullied because of who they are, and no person should be discriminated against in the workplace, for any reason,” Republican Congressional candidate Ashley Hinson told an eastern Iowa magazine geared toward LGBTQ readers last fall.
Hinson had a chance to put her stated beliefs into action on February 25, when the U.S. House considered the Equality Act. The bill would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the areas of employment, education, housing, public accommodations, jury service, and access to credit or federal funding. But the new member of Congress from Iowa’s first district voted against it, as did all but three House Republicans (roll call).
Representative Cindy Axne, the lone Democrat in Iowa’s Congressional delegation, co-sponsored the Equality Act and was part of the 224 to 206 majority that approved it.
“I HAVE NEVER CHANGED MY MESSAGE ABOUT LGBTQ+ RIGHTS”
Iowa’s other two newly-elected GOP Representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) and Randy Feenstra (IA-04), voted against the Equality Act as well. But unlike Hinson, they didn’t go out of their way to campaign last year as allies of queer Iowans.
Here’s an excerpt from Hinson’s interview with GoGuide Magazine, published in October 2020 (page 27).
GGM: Why should the LGBTQ+ community and allies support your candidacy?
AH: I support the LGBTQ+ community, and I support everyone’s rights as human beings. No person should be discriminated against, no person should be bullied because of who they are, and no person should be discriminated against in the workplace, for any reason. I hope the community will support my candidacy not just because I will defend your rights and listen to your concerns, but because I will do what’s right for all Iowans. I’m passionate about many issues that members of the LGBTQ+ community care about: safe streets, good schools, and an economy where a high paying job is available. I will support pro-economic growth policies that make these things happen while pushing for a strong investment in infrastructure projects here in Iowa’s First Congressional District. I will work to cut government waste and never forget that my boss when in Congress is all taxpayers in Iowa’s First Congressional District.
GGM: As a Republican, do you find that some people automatically assume you’re NOT an ally of the LGBTQ community?
AH: No, because I have never changed my message about LGBTQ+ rights no matter what group I am speaking with. I will always listen to my constituents. Consistency is important, and many politicians tell different communities different things. I will never do that. I will fight for the rights of all people because every single person, regardless of sexuality, race, gender or creed has the right to pursue the American dream.
As a state legislator, Hinson never had to decide whether to stand with LGBTQ Iowans or with the social conservatives who dominate the Republican base, because she was always part of the majority caucus. GOP leaders didn’t bring pro-equality legislation to the Iowa House floor. In the Democratic-controlled U.S. House, Hinson was forced to make a choice.
NOW HIDING BEHIND “EXISTING LEGAL PROTECTIONS”
An emerging hallmark of Hinson’s political messaging is her tendency to posture as a moderate voice in some contexts while pushing divisive rhetoric in other venues, especially when addressing perceived supporters. That desire to have it both ways was on diplay in the written statement her office released on February 25. It read in its entirety,
“There is absolutely no place in our society for bigotry or hate, and no one should face discrimination of any kind. There are already existing legal protections for those who have experienced discrimination under federal law. The Equality Act undermines the First Amendment and threatens religious liberty, and I will oppose it.”
Hinson didn’t share the statement on either her official or political Facebook pages, or her official Twitter feed, but she highlighted it on her campaign’s Twitter account.
No one should face hatred or discrimination of any kind and I will fight for everyone to be treated fairly and with respect. But I won’t support legislation that undermines the First Amendment. #IA01 #IApolitics https://t.co/3M601ugqeR
— Ashley Hinson (@hinsonashley) February 26, 2021
Iowa’s civil rights law has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity since 2007. But more than two dozen states have no similar laws on the books. When Hinson mentioned “existing legal protections for those who have experienced discrimination under federal law,” she seemed to be referring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. In that case, six justices found that language in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex, protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees against employment discrimination.
The Equality Act goes beyond the protections enshrined in that 1964 law. A list of federal statutes it would alter is enclosed below, as part of the statement released by Representative Axne.
Hinson didn’t explain how this bill would supposedly undermine the First Amendment. Presumably she was alluding to claims by many conservatives that laws banning discrimination against LGBTQ people infringe their religious freedom. Hinson’s statement matched sentiments expressed by other Congressional Republicans, who don’t want to be seen as hostile to gay or transgender people.
During the 1950s and 1960s, opponents of the civil rights movement used their religious beliefs to justify segregated public spaces and bans on interracial marriage. Long ago, courts settled that debate: private business owners cannot cite religion as an excuse for denying service to people of a certain race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
News organizations with access to Hinson, including her former colleagues at KCRG-TV (which published her statement without further analysis), should ask her what services can be withheld from LGBTQ people on religious grounds, in her view, and what other groups of Americans deserve less than full protection against discrimination in the name of religious liberty.
February 25 news release from Representative Cindy Axne (D, IA-03):
Rep. Axne Praises House Passage of the Equality Act
Legislation ensures all LGBTQ Americans are granted full protections under federal civil rights law
Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) voted with a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives to pass the Equality Act, legislation to ensure key protections under federal civil rights law are fully extended to LGBTQ Americans.
The Equality Act extends anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans with regard to employment, education, access to credit, jury service, federal funding, housing and public accommodations.
“It is well past time to ensure LGBTQ Americans have full civil rights protection under the law, and this bill will help move our nation closer to fulfilling the promise of equality, opportunity, and justice for all,” said Rep. Axne. “Our LGBTQ friends, family members and co-workers still face unequal treatment, and I will continue to fight in Washington to make sure that we end discrimination against our LGBTQ community.”
The Equality Act amends existing federal civil rights laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, federal jury service, and the use of federal funds.
The legislation amends:
Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide basic protections against discrimination in public accommodations by adding sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide basic protections against discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance by adding sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991, and the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to make explicit protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; The Fair Housing Act to make protections against housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity explicit; The Equal Credit Opportunity Act to make protections against credit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity explicit; and The Jury Selections and Services Act to make protections against discrimination in federal jury service based on sexual orientation or gender identity explicit.
The Equality Act was originally passed by Rep. Axne and a bipartisan majority of the U.S House in May 2019.