The future of LGBT+ rights ‘is at stake’ in the Georgia Senate run-offs. Here’s why

Voters stand in line to cast their ballots during the first day of early voting in the US Senate Georgia run-off elections

LGBT+ rights will be “at stake” on Tuesday (5 January), when America elects two Georgia senators in a run-off elections determining which party has control of the US Senate.

Neither of the two Republican senators running for election in Georgia, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, managed to draw a majority on election day (3 November), so they were forced into run-offs against their Democratic challengers, Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

If Republicans win either race in Georgia, they will retain control of the Senate, posing a serious challenge to Joe Biden’s pro-LGBT+ legislative agenda and the Democrat-controlled lower House of Representatives.

If the Democrats win both seats, the Senate will be equally split and vice president-elect Kamala Harris will have a tie-breaking vote.

Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff

Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff (Getty Images)

Sarah Kate Ellis, president of LGBT+ advocacy group GLAAD, told Reuters that the run-off elections puts everything “at stake” when it comes to US LGBT+ rights.

She said: “These two Senate runoff races in Georgia will be defining for the LGBTQ community and whether or not our rights are moved forward in Congress.”

One big example of LGBT+ rights legislation that could be at risk with a Republican Senate is the Equality Act, which would protect LGBT+ people from discrimination in areas like employment, housing and education by amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The Equality Act has struggled to pass through Congress, and Gabriele Magni, a professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University, said: “Chances that a Republican-controlled Senate will all of a sudden decide to change their minds on this are very, very limited.”

David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler speak at a campaign event

David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler speak at a campaign event to supporters at a restaurant on 13 November 13, 2020 in Cumming, Georgia. (Getty/ Megan Varner).

The Democratic and Republican candidates in Georgia are polar opposites when it comes to the Equality Act, as well as trans rights.

While Ossoff and Warnock have been vocal about their support for the trans community and trans rights and have both committed to voting in favour of the Equality Act, Perdue opposes the Equality Act and has voted for bills to undermine LGBT+ discrimination protections, and Loeffler has previously put forward bills seeking to legally erase transgender children.

The Georgia run-offs could also decide whether a federal ban on LGBT+ conversion therapy comes to fruition, with many Republicans arguing that a ban would infringe on religious freedom. 

One of the most talked-about promises that Biden has made when it comes to LGBT+ rights is to overturn Donald Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the US military which, unlike legislation that would require bills to be passed by Congress, he could do using executive powers.