George Santos wants to end aid to countries that hurt gay people. Trans people are not included.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep. George Santos
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep. George Santos Photo: Screenshot

Out Rep. George Santos (R-NY) has introduced a bill to ban the U.S. from providing aid to countries that discriminate based on sexual orientation, and he left transgender people out of the bill.

H.R. 1736 – the Equality & Fiscal Accountability Protection Act – was introduced by Santos late last month and currently doesn’t have any cosponsors. The bill’s text has not been posted, but its description on Congress’s website says that it will ban the U.S. government from providing “assistance to foreign countries that criminalize or discriminate based on sexual orientation.”

There is no definition of “discriminate,” which might explain why none of his fellow Republicans are cosponsoring the bill: most Republicans support legalizing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, especially if it’s religious employers, businesses, and nonprofit organizations doing the discriminating.

In 2021, 206 Republican House members voted against the Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in several areas of federal law, including employment, public accommodations, and education. Only three House Republicans voted for the bill.

“Discrimination against both women and the LGBTQ community is unacceptable,” Santos said in a statement. “My bill will send a clear message that the United States will not offer federal aid to countries found to be violating the rights of individuals based on sexual orientation. We as a nation have a responsibility to stand up for the human rights of all people, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

His statement, along with the bill’s description on Congress’s website, pointedly leaves out words like “transgender” and “gender identity and expression.” Transgender people are being targeted by hundreds of state laws this year, many of which seek to ban them from accessing gender-affirming health care, being referred to with the correct pronouns in school, and getting an equal education to their cisgender peers.

And Santos appears to support such legislation, citing “protecting our kids from indoctrination” and “girls sports” – expressions conservatives use to describe banning LGBTQ+ books from schools and banning transgender students from participating in school sports – as two of his priorities just yesterday.

Santos has also cosponsored a bill that calls for a rollback of LGBTQ+ people’s rights that is full of stereotypes about transgender people. H.R. 115, House Republicans’ “Women’s Bill of Rights,” doesn’t include many rights for women. Instead, the bill focuses on definitions of words like “sex” and “mother” that exclude transgender people, and then it calls for laws that ban sex-based discrimination not to be interpreted as including LGBTQ+ people, as some courts have done.

Calling for the U.S. to fight against discrimination against gay and bisexual people overseas has long been a tactic used by conservatives to deflect attention from how LGBTQ+ people are treated domestically. Gay Trump administration official Richard Grenell often touted Donald Trump’s campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide to deflect criticism of the Trump administration’s constant attacks on LGBTQ+ Americans. The campaign, though, didn’t have any successes and international LGBTQ+ advocates openly wondered if it was doing anything at all.

Santos may be doing the same thing. Over the weekend, he retweeted a person criticizing President Joe Biden for calling on Congress to pass the Equality Act.

“How about passing H.R. 1736?” the person wrote. “The bill prohibits US funding to go to countries that discriminate & criminalize based on sexual orientation, while upholding national security.”

The tweet that Santos retweeted.

The main reason Congress is unlikely to pass either bill this session is that both lack support from Republicans, who hold a majority in the House.

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