GOP Lawmakers Throw Tantrum Over Trade Bill’s LGBT Protections

A trade deal between Canada, the US and Mexicowas progressing nicely toward its conclusion this month until the US Republican Party objected to LGBT worker protectionsin the agreement.

The deal, would replace the existing North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) with theUnited States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).TheTrump administration has held it up as a highlight of the presidency so far,touting it as an agreement designed to reinvigorate industry and get rid of red-tape and big tariffs, all for easier tri-lateral trade. It takes a great deal of its framework not just from NAFTA but from theComprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, and contains a number of provisions relating to Labor and Labor law.

Within that, in Chapter 23, is a provision that requires countries to enact policies that protect workers from discrimination on the basis of several characteristics including sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. Workplace equality is also enumerated, with specific language dedicated to promoting gender identity and sexual orientation policies that give fair and equal treatment.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau championed the language.Trudeau has said that this codifies Canada’s commitment to LGBT people and helps to enshrine a big win for LGBT people in the North American region. As we might already foresee, anti-LGBT Republicans are not happy about this language and have written to President Donald Trump to make that explicitly clear.

In aletterto President Trumps signedby a group of 38 GOP lawmakers, the Republicansgive the President what is essentially a veiled ultimatum: either ditch the protections or face a shortfall of votes in Congress.

In the letter, which was first reported on by Politico, Reps. Steve King and Vicky Hartzler, among others,begin with a bit of boot-licking over the Trump administration’s work on the deal but then quickly get to the rub: “We are, however, deeply concerned by the unprecedented inclusion… of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) language.”

The letter goes back to praising the administration for working hard to reverse Obama-era protections on LGBT identity, and particularly for dismantlingin federal policy the science-based view of gender identity being an emergent and therefore protected characteristic under sex discrimination protections.

The lawmakers then return to complaining about the SOGI language: “A trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy. It is especially inappropriate and insulting to our sovereignty to needlessly submit to social policies which the United States Congress has so far explicitly refused to accept.”

The letter warns that allowing the language will result in “unnecessary confusion in future international treaties as well as domestic laws and policies” and essentially codify Obama-era protections.

It concludes, “Before signing the agreement… we strongly urge you to remove the SOGI language.”

Lawmakers behind the letter have indicated that this language would be a “deal killer” for them and that they would oppose the deal in Congress, if it is signed with LGBT-inclusive language.

President Trump is expected to sign the agreement in Buenos Aires at a G-20 meeting on November 30, 2018. Amending the agreement before then would be difficult. Canada does not seem likely to want to amend the language, therefore making a straight redaction difficult. Changes to enforcement could be made through Congress, but the Democrats would likely resist that and useit as further fuel to oppose the trade agreement. This route would likely also be unpalatable for Republicans, anyway, who want the language nixed in its entirety so they can continue their war on LGBT people and particularly on recognition for trans people.

The interesting thing is, as other commentators have noted, this fight is actually almost entirely ideological. There is little enforcement power in the LGBT-inclusive language, as it is broad and without mechanisms for actual oversight, but the Republican Party is so zealously anti-LGBT at this point that it can’t stand to give even an inch of ground.

This is something that Canada must have known when it pushed for the language, and yet it did soanyway. If it wanted to goad the President and set up a situation of pitting him at odds with his party, this was a neat way of doing it.

There are many potential roadblocks for the USMCA, but it is so very telling that factions of the Republican party are prepared to threaten blowing the whole deal over any and all LGBT-inclusive language. It’s incredibly instructive, too, that language on basic civil rights is, at this point, simply unconscionable to the GOP.

Photo credit: Getty Images.


pam w
pam w2 days ago

Sanctimonious SOBs!

Olivia M
Olivia M3 days ago


Greta L
Greta L3 days ago

thank you

Shae Lee
Shae Lee4 days ago

Thank you.

Janis K
Janis K5 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

Leo C
Leo Custer5 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan H6 days ago


pam w
pam w7 days ago

Aren't they just the most GODLY people ever?

John W
John W7 days ago


silja salonen
silja s9 days ago

fear of themselves perhaps ... ugliness of the GOP boggles