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Politics

Taylor Swift called out the White House at the VMAs. Here’s her Equality Act petition, explained

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift, right, accepts the Video for Good Award for “You Need to Calm Down” at the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday.
(Matt Sayles / Invision / AP)

Taylor Swift was in the spotlight at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards — and she used part of her screentime to remind the Trump administration that she’s waiting on a response to a petition.

While accepting the Video of the Year award, the pop star said the honor signaled fans’ support of her message in “You Need to Calm Down.” The single has been received as an LGBTQ ally anthem for its emphasis on self-love, community support and acceptance as themes and celebrity cameos, including the Fab Five of “Queer Eye,” Laverne Cox and Ellen DeGeneres. The video for the single, which also took home the Video for Good award, includes an ask for viewers to sign Swift’s petition to the U.S. Senate in support of the Equality Act to demand that “on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally.”

“You voting for this video means that you want a world where we are all treated equally under the law regardless of who we love — regardless of how we identify,” Swift said. “At the end of this video, there was a petition and there still is a petition for the Equality Act, which basically just says we all deserve equal rights under the law. I want to thank everyone who signed that petition because it now has a half a million signatures, which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House.”

When mentioning the White House, Swift lifted her arm and tapped her wrist as though she were looking at a watch and waiting for something overdue.

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The White House responded Tuesday when spokesman Judd Deere reiterated the administration’s stance that it rejects discrimination but doesn’t support the legislation.

“The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, the House-passed bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,” Deere said, according to a CNN report.

The Equality Act, which passed the House in May and is making its way through the Senate, would extend federal discrimination protections to explicitly include sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill would ban anyone from being denied access to shared facilities, such as a restroom or a locker room, that is in accordance with their gender identity and would put a stop to the use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to challenge these discrimination protections.

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The legislation would also allow the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Swift emphasizes in her petition that the Equality Act would “protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in their places of work, homes, schools, and other public accommodations.”

“Our country’s lack of protection for its own citizens ensures that LGBTQ people must live in fear that their lives could be turned upside down by an employer or landlord who is homophobic or transphobic,” Swift wrote on Change.org, adding that she created the petition to urge the Senate to support the Equality Act with pressure from voters. “The fact that, legally, some people are completely at the mercy of the hatred and bigotry of others is disgusting and unacceptable.”

Swift launched the petition — which had more than 509,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning — at the start of Pride Month in June when she tweeted a letter addressed to Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee asking him to support the Equality Act.

“I’ve decided to kick off Pride Month by writing a letter to one of my senators to explain how strongly I feel that the Equality Act should be passed,” Swift wrote with the hashtag #lettertomysenator, encouraging her followers to do the same. The letter also called out President Trump for not supporting the legislation.

“I personally reject the President’s stance that his administration, ‘supports equal treatment of all,’ but that the Equality Act, ‘in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,’” she wrote.

Democratic presidential candidates Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker were among politicians who expressed support of Swift’s petition.

Swift’s campaign for the Equality Act has marked one of the highest profile political moments of her career after she had long been criticized for not openly expressing her opinions on political issues. But in the last year, she has used her platform to endorse Democratic candidates in the Tennessee legislature, support LGBTQ rights and encourage young people to register to vote.

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The pop megastar explicitly entered the political conversation when she spoke out during the 2018 midterm elections. In an Instagram caption, Swift explained why she was voting for Democrats Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for the House. She also slammed Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) writing, “Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me.”

“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now,” Swift wrote to her followers. “I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country.”

Swift continued to say that she believed in the fight for LGBTQ rights and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is wrong. She also said “the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.”

The comments sparked praise from supporters and backlash from political figures, including Mike Huckabee, Piers Morgan and President Trump, who said he liked “Taylor’s music about 25% less.” Swift has seen continued attacks for voicing her opinions, including a sexist tweet from Kid Rock earlier this month.

While promoting her new album, “Lover,” Swift has discussed her willingness to speak more openly about politics. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Swift said she supports was pro-choice abortion rights and vowed to “do everything [she] can for 2020" and directly commented on Trump’s presidency: “We’re a democracy – at least, we’re supposed to be – where you’re allowed to disagree, dissent, debate. I really think that he thinks this is an autocracy.”

Taylor Swift, one of pop music’s most polarizing superstars, is enmeshed in another very public battle, and the world has promptly, predictably, divvied up into pro- and anti-Swift camps.


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