The House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), passed the so-called Equality Act on May 17, 2019. The vote was 236-173. This misguided bill would compromise religious freedom in an effort to perpetuate lies about homosexuality and transgenderism. Eight House Republicans crossed party lines to support the bill. Sadly, three of those Republicans—now known as the “Compromised Three—were New Yorkers; they are: Reps. John Katko (R-NY24); Tom Reed (R-NY23); and Elise Stefanik (R-NY21). Thankfully, the bill has no immediate prospects for passage in the Republican-led U.S. Senate., and President Donald Trump has expressed opposition.
Rep. Katko’s support for the Equality Act is no surprise; in fact, the congressman even went so far as to co-sponsor the bill. Rep. Katko represents New York’s 24th congressional district, a Democrat-leading swing district in the Finger Lakes region. Along with Rep. Stefanik, Rep. Katko is a co-chair of the Tuesday Group (a group of moderate Republican House members). His House seat is considered one of the most vulnerable in the nation for House Republicans in 2020.
Rep. Reed’s vote for the Equality Act is disappointing. The congressman hails from District 23, a Southern Tier district that is among the most Republican-leaning congressional districts in the state. Rep. Reed is a cochair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Unfortunately, he has created more problems than he solved with his vote on this bill.
NYCF is deeply dismayed over Rep. Elise Stefanik’s vote. Our affiliated political action committee—New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms PAC—endorsed Rep. Stefanik in her 2014 congressional bid in her North Country vote. When making our endorsement decision, the issue of federal LGBT legislation arose. Here is a quotation from an e-mail sent by then-candidate Stefanik:
Thank you very much for the endorsement. I stand by our discussion on [the Employment Nondiscrimination Act] and will stand by my word on only voting for the legislation it if it includes a strong amendment protecting individual and group religious freedom language. I very much appreciate the support and the confidence your organization has placed in me and I will not let you down.
The Employment Nondiscrimination Act was an earlier LGBT rights bill that never became law. The only meaningful difference between it and the Equality Act is that the Equality Act is much more extreme and far-reaching. Needless to say, the religious freedom language mentioned by Rep. Stefanik did not find its way into the Equality Act. Rep. Stefanik, contrary to the statement you made in your email from 2014, you have let us down.
The Compromised Three now face discontent from their conservative constituents. When voters spend time and treasure electing someone to Congress, they don’t like it when that individual votes for destructive bills that fly in the face of their values. We expect that the Compromised Three will make efforts to mollify their conservative constituents. On the other hand, the Compromised Three can expect NYCF to continue reminding those constituents of their betrayal.
Members of New York’s congressional delegation who voted against the so-called Equality Act:
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1)
Rep. Pete King (R-NY2)
Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY27)
Members of New York’s congressional delegation who voted for the so-called Equality Act:
Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3)
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY4)
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY5)
Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY6)
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY7)
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY8)
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY9)
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY10)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY12)
Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY13)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14)
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY15)
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY16)
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY17)
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY18)
Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY19)
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY20)
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY21)
Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY22)
Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY23)
Rep. John Katko (R-NY24)
Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY25)
Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY26)
Rep. Max Rose (D-NY11)