Human Rights Campaign Statement on Senate Republicans Blocking Crucial Voting Rights Legislation

by Henry Berg-Brousseau

Millions of voters -- especially LGBTQ+ voters and voters of color -- remain at risk of being denied the fundamental constitutional right to vote as voter suppression efforts continue unabated in GOP-dominated state legislatures across the country

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — denounced the failure of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 4) in the U.S. Senate as the vast majority of Republicans in the chamber chose not to allow debate on the bill. The legislation sought to restore the full protections afforded under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and would have expanded the federal government’s ability to respond to voter suppression and discrimination. Without the protections guaranteed by the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, many voters — including many LGBTQ+ voters — are more vulnerable to voter suppression now than at any time since the Voting Rights Act was signed into law more than fifty years ago.

“The Human Rights Campaign condemns the decision of nearly all Senate Republicans today to prevent debate on this critical voting rights legislation. Without this bill, millions of voters remain at risk of being denied their fundamental and sacred right to vote -- a right some Senators snubbed today,” said Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President, Policy & Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. “The failure to advance the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act has left open the floodgates of voter suppression that the Supreme Court threw open with its decision in Shelby County. The outcome today is a call to keep fighting -- to continue HRC’s work to move America closer to its promise of a more perfect union. It is in this spirit that we continue our efforts to elect candidates who will fight for our right to vote, coast to coast. To do otherwise would truly be a disservice to the legacy of a hero, civil rights icon, and tireless champion of the work of the Human Rights Campaign, Congressman John Lewis.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder effectively gutted provisions requiring certain states and localities with a history of discriminatory electoral practices to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws. Without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states and localities have brazenly pushed forward politically motivated and discriminatory changes to voting policies and procedures to disenfranchise and silence marginalized communities — and obstruct full access to the right to vote.

Congressman John Lewis’ life-long commitment to actualizing a just and inclusive American democracy was exemplified by this crucial legislation named in his honor. The Human Rights Campaign — which joined the NAACP, American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Defamation League and others in urging the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in a letter organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights — now mourns the bill’s stalling at the hands of Senate Republicans.

Many in the LGBTQ+ community — especially LGBTQ+ people of Color— endure and fear discrimination while accessing the right to vote. A 2019 HRC Foundation survey found that:

  • Fear of or experiencing discrimination led 22% of LGBTQ+ adults, 35% of LGBTQ+ adults of Color, 49% of transgender adults, and 55% of transgender adults of Color to avoid voting in at least one election in their lives.
  • An issue with meeting voter identification requirements prevented 24% of LGBTQ+ adults, 35% of LGBTQ+ people of Color, 42% of transgender people from voting in at least one election in their lives. Furthermore, 46% of transgender people of Color said they did not vote in one or more elections in their lives specifically because their I.D. had an incorrect gender marker, name, or photo.

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