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Susan Collins, Joe Manchin Vote for Anti-Trans Language in COVID Bill

Joe Manchin and Susan Collins
Joe Manchin and Susan Collins

The amendment failed, but it received the votes of supposed Republican ally Collins and conservative Democrat Manchin.

An anti-transgender amendment didn't end up in the COVID-19 relief bill passed by the U.S. Senate Saturday, but almost all Republicans, including a supposed LGBTQ+ ally, and one Democrat voted for it.

The amendment would have denied federal funding under Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to states, school districts, colleges, and universities that allow transgender girls and women to compete on female teams. It was sponsored by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, with cosponsors Roger Marshall of Kansas, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

It needed 60 votes to be added to the relief bill, and it received only 49 -- from all Republicans except the two Alaska senators: Lisa Murkowski, who voted no, and Dan Sullivan, who was not present. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, often considered an LGBTQ+ ally, voted for it. All Democrats voted against it except Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the most conservative Dems.

"This amendment safeguards fairness and equality for women," Tuberville said in introducing the measure, according to the Congressional Record. "This amendment will ensure that education funding in the bill is properly directed to schools that are focused on COVID response and recovery rather than pushing a liberal agenda."

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State wasn't having it. "This amendment will undermine the goals of this bill to provide assistance to all educators, all students, and families who have struggled through this pandemic," she told her colleagues. "It is simply an attempt to discriminate against transgender students.

"All students, including transgender students, benefit from participating in sports -- to challenge themselves, to improve fitness, to be part of a team. Allowing transgender students to participate in athletic activities consistent with their gender identity in no way disadvantages their fellow students.

"For the love of God, can't we just have a little bit of heart and compassion in this world for someone who for someone who doesn't look or live exactly like you? Instead of focusing on discriminatory policies, we should be examining the real issues with gender parity in sports when it comes to funding and resources and pay equity. I oppose this amendment because it discriminates against transgender students. It is a harmful attempt to undermine our work to help students and families."

Manchin hasn't spoken publicly about his vote for the amendment, but it was not surprising, the Washington Blade notes, as it "is consistent with his lack of support for the Equality Act out of concerns about guidance on students undergoing gender transition."

Collins, however, is usually considered one of the biggest LGBTQ+ allies among Republicans. The Blade sought comment from her, and her spokeswoman Annie Clark replied, "Sen. Collins has been a leading advocate for transgender rights, and also for girls' and women's sports. She believes this is a complex issue that needs further study. "

The Advocate has reached out to Manchin for comment and will update its coverage if he responds.

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David issued a statement on the matter Sunday: "Yesterday, the Human Rights Campaign launched #LetKidsPlay to mobilize our allies, including thousands of parents of transgender children, elected officials and organizations, eventually getting the hashtag to number 19 on Twitter's trending and raising awareness about the anti-equality amendments in this vote-a-rama. Today, we are proud to see that U.S. senators stayed focused on providing critical relief to American families and voted down a discriminatory amendment that would have ultimately deprived federal funding for states across the country. These amendments solely sought to further their manufactured 'culture war,' driven by misinformation and fearmongering.

"We have said it before and we will say it again -- transgender people have been participating in sports consistent with their gender identity for decades. The sad truth is that conservative Republicans are using it now to drum up a new culture war, using vulnerable children as political pawns. We thank the senators who voted down this poison pill and put American families and small businesses ahead of political positioning."

Meanwhile, on Friday the Blade queried White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the spate of anti-transgender bills being considered in state legislatures around the nation, including a bill restricting sports participation that has passed both houses in Mississippi and Gov. Tate Reeves has vowed to sign.

Psaki replied that such discrimination is both wrong and unlawful, referring to the Supreme Court's Bostock ruling and President Joe Biden's executive order against anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. "The president believes that trans rights are human rights, and that no one should be discriminated on the basis of sex, not only is this the law of the land, it's his own deeply held view," she said. Watch below.

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