June is the first Pride month for the 116th Congress, which includes 10 openly gay politicians — the most in the nation’s history. From hometown parades to policy speeches, members of Congress are marking the celebratory month and using the occasion to introduce new legislation.

“Having a seat at the table is critical,” Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) told Cheddar. “That is the most powerful way to change hearts, minds, and laws in this country.”

Just this month, the House Ways and Means Committee introduced the PRIDE Act, which would update the U.S. tax code to clarify filings for same-sex married couples, and the House Foreign Affairs committee introduced the Global Respect Act, which would require the government to impose sanctions on foreign individuals that violate LGBTQ human rights.

The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus also introduced the Every Child Deserves a Family Act to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care and adoption services and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney — New York’s first openly gay member of Congress — introduced the LGBTQ Essential Data Act, which would provide $25 million to track anti-LGBTQ violence.

“It is about being seen in the society, and it is about knowing the scope of the problem.” Maloney told Cheddar last week.

Members of Congress are also using Pride month to advocate for the Equality Act. The bill, which would legally prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, was passed by the House (236-173) in May but faces a steep challenge in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“This is an area where there is another huge disconnect between the American people and Mitch McConnell and leaders in the Senate who are going to stand in the way of this coming forward,” Pappas said, adding that it is still a matter of when, not if, the Equality Act becomes law.

Yet so far, Senate Majority Leader McConnell had made no indication that he will bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“In the U.S. Senate, those opposed to the Equality Act will now need to look two openly LGBTQ Senators in the eyes and tell them their lives are not worth protecting,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement.

Despite Republican resistance, which largely stems from concerns that the bill would infringe on religious liberties, pressure is mounting on the Senate to hold a vote.

Last week, Taylor Swift released a music video with major LGBTQ icons that urged fans to sign a Change.org petition urging the Senate to pass the Equality Act. The video was widely shared online, even by several lawmakers such as Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Causus and the only openly bisexual member of Congress.

“You've got a standing invite from me to come advocate for the #EqualityAct in DC, anytime! Let’s be loud,” Hill said in a message to Swift.

Swift’s petition has so far been signed by nearly 400,000 people, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

“I’m convinced that the momentum is on our side,” Pappas told Cheddar. “When you protect individuals in the workplace, in housing, in public services and spaces, then you unleash the potential of each and every individual.”

The LGBTQ lawmakers and their allies in Congress, however, face a resistant White House, which failed to even acknowledge Pride in the first two years of President Trump's administration and has taken numerous steps to role back LGBTQ protections. Trump did acknowledge Pride in a tweet earlier this month.

Pappas, nonetheless, said he is confident that LGBTQ representation in government will increase, despite the pushback from the Republican party.

“Being gay is an asset when you run [for office] because when you’re open and honest about who you are, voters understand that you’re going to be honest about your positions on a whole host of other issues,” Pappas told Cheddar.

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