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In a discussion on my SiriusXM show about the high approval numbers we’re seeing for President Biden and the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill — and what people thought of the job the president is doing so far — Mike from New York called in to say he’d give Biden a B+. He liked the “change in tone.” He liked his “operating in the institutional framework” and the “show of respect” and turning away from the “high-fevered nonsense” Trump.
But he said there are things he’s not in favor of, and noted he is “very worried” about the Equality Act, the broad LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill that would add LGBTQ people to protected groups under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Right now, 29 states don’t have such protections in employment, housing, public accommodations and many other areas. And Biden has championed the bill, which passed the House in recent weeks, saying during the 2020 campaign that he wanted to sign it within his first 100 days.
Mike, clearly someone who is more conservative but who nonetheless liked Biden, was ready to move on to something else — but I had to stop him in his tracks and make him explain. Mike said he was worried about “unintended consequences,” and then under questioning raised the right-wing false claim suggesting churches would have to “perform gay marriages.”
I explained that the Civil Rights Act protects religion — and doesn’t force churches to perform weddings of people who are not part of their faith, for example. The claim he made has been part of the hateful agenda of those opposed to LGBTQ rights, distorting the issue as an attack on “religious freedom.” It’s an outright lie.
Mike first claimed he had “read the Equality Act,” and admitted that maybe he “misread” it — though he later admitted he had “gotten that [interpretation] off the National Review” website, the longtime right-wing publication that is hostile to LGBTQ rights.
And Mike said he could be wrong and was willing to go back and read more. He let it be known he was open to being educated.
I thought the call was instructive not only about how the far-right distorts issues, and how people might be sucked into it. It was also interesting because someone who likely is a social conservative expressed his support for Biden, a man who’s now signing the most progressive stimulus bill in decades, growing the social safety net in a bigger way than anything since the Great Depression. I think Mike underscored the challenges Republicans have, as many of their own voters support Biden’s efforts.
It was one of those calls in which not only the caller learned something but hopefully a lot of people listening did as well. And I learned something too.
Listen in and let me know your thoughts.