U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington, has a personal stake in the Equality Act. “My beautiful, now 22-year-old child told me last year that they were gender nonconforming,” Jayapal tearfully told her colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 2.
The Equality Act would add LGBTQ people to federal discrimination laws, and at Tuesday’s hearing, Jayapal emphatically explained the bill’s importance.
“The only thought I wake up with every day is: My child is free,” the congresswoman said, publicly discussing her child’s identity for the first time. “My child is free to be who they are, and in that freedom comes a responsibility for us as legislators to protect that freedom.”
Before Jayapal’s speech, Republican lawmakers and Republican-invited witnesses criticized the Equality Act, NBC News reports. Julia Beck, a self-described radical lesbian feminist who previously claimed that trans women aren’t women, argued that men could pretend to be women to win sports competitions. And U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, asked “who would celebrate” if President Donald Trump declared himself “the first female president.”
But Jayapal shut down the dissenting opinions. “As I listened to some of you today, I was struck by this push to presume that these provisions would somehow be manipulated or used by people in ways that would hurt existing sex protections,” she said. “It occurred to me that we are talking about fear versus love; we are talking about fear versus freedom.”
“My child is finally free to be who they are,” she later tweeted. “With that freedom comes a responsibility, for us as legislators, to legislate with love and not fear.”