Gay Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is once again the only out LGBTQ+ member of Congress to back an anti-LGBTQ+ bill, this time a resolution referred to as a “Women’s bill of rights” that doesn’t include any actual rights for women. Instead, the intent of the bill is to attack LGBTQ+ people’s rights.
Santos is one of about two dozen Republican cosponsors of H.R. 115, which says its purpose is “Establishing a Women’s Bill of Rights to reaffirm legal protections afforded to women under Federal law.”
The resolution, though, doesn’t include much in terms of women’s rights. The resolution reaffirms six points, the first three of which are about words: “sex” would be defined as “biological sex at birth,” words like “woman” and “man” would be defined based on sex assigned at birth, and “mother” and “father” are defined based on sex.
The next point on the Women’s Bill of Rights says that federal civil rights legislation uses the word “sex” to refer to sex assigned at birth, which appears to be an attack on the Biden administration’s application of Bostock v. Clayton Co. to all federal civil rights legislation. That Supreme Court ruling found that Title VII’s ban on sex-based discrimination in employment includes a ban on anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in employment because it’s impossible to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people without taking sex into account.
By including this in the Women’s Bill of Rights, the Republican cosponsors are attacking the few protections LGBTQ+ people have at the federal level. If Bostock is rolled back, it would be legal for employers to fire someone because of their LGBTQ+ identity again. Many Biden administration protections for LGBTQ+ people rest on Bostock’s interpretation of Title VII as well.
The next point in the Women’s Bill of Rights says that laws are allowed to discriminate based on sex “when they serve an important governmental objective and are substantially related to achieving that objective.” The last point is about reporting data.
The Republican Women’s Bill of Rights does not mention women’s right to vote, women’s rights to be free of discrimination (just that such rights don’t include trans women), reproductive rights, paid family leave, or any other major advance in women’s rights or goal for the future.
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) introduced the bill.
“Protecting women’s rights should not be a partisan issue, yet the left cannot even define the word ‘woman,’” she said in a statement. “I am proud to once again introduce this important legislation to affirm the basic biological truth that men and women are different and safeguard the rights of women in our laws.”
This isn’t the first anti-LGBTQ+ bill that Santos has cosponsored since getting into Congress. He also cosponsored H.R. 863, a bill to block “sexually explicit material” in schools even though schools aren’t providing pornography to students. Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL), who introduced the bill, said that it will “end the sexualization of children in schools.”
Despite being gay and having a background in drag performance, Santos campaigned on an anti-LGBTQ+ platform. In one media appearance before he was elected, he decried same-sex couples raising children.
“The family unit has been under attack for decades, decades!” Santos said on John Stubbins’s conservative Indivisible show. “In different ways, right? The flavor of the decade is same-sex couples. ‘Oh, that’s so OK!’ Look, to each their own, I don’t have anything against that but they’re teaching in school how kids that, you know, you don’t need a mommy and a daddy, you can have two mommies, you can have two daddies. I think that’s a little much for kids, right?”
“And when we have instability in the family unit, you wreak havoc,” he continued. “One parent can’t parent two kids as well as two parents, and there’s always that feminine touch to boys from the mother and that masculine touch to boys from the father, same thing goes for the daughters, and it creates equilibrium and balance.”
Santos was also a supporter of Donald Trump, who banned transgender people from serving openly in the military, fought for religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws so that religious health care providers and businesses could refuse LGBTQ+ patients and customers, and opposed the Equality Act, which would have banned anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination at the federal level in a number of areas.
No other LGBTQ+ members of Congress have signed on to cosponsor either of these bills. All the other LGBTQ+ members of the House of Representatives are Democrats. All the cosponsors of Lesko’s Women’s Bill of Rights are Republican.
Lesko introduced her Women’s Bill of Rights last year as well.