The Democratic-controlled House on Thursday passed the Equality Act, a sweeping civil rights bill that expands protections in education, housing, employment and more to LGBT people.
The bill, which was first passed by the Democratic-led House in 2019, faces a steep climb in the Senate where Republicans are almost uniformly opposed to it.
The legislation, passed 224 to 206, almost entirely along party lines, seeks to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add explicit bans on discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in both public and private spaces.
“In most states, L.G.B.T.Q. people can be discriminated against because of who they are, or who they love,” said Representative David Cicilline, an openly gay Democrat from Rhode Island and the lead sponsor. “It is past time for that to change.”
“In a landmark decision in June, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 civil rights law protects gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination, and that the language of the law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” reports the New York Times. “The Equality Act builds on that ruling, and would expand the scope of civil rights protections beyond workers to consumers at businesses including restaurants, taxi services, gas stations and shelters.”
“It would also water down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the 1993 law at the heart of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case that set a high bar for governments to enact laws that ‘substantially burden’ an individual’s freedom to exercise religious beliefs. Those protections have been cited by, for example, bakers or photographers who object to serving same-sex weddings,” the Times adds.
Ten Republicans would need to join Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass legislation under normal Senate procedures, a level of support its proponents are unlikely to muster, unless substantial changes are made the current bill.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the only Republican in that chamber to co-sponsor the legislation during the last Congress, told The Washington Blade that she would not do so again because the current version of the bill lacks of certain revisions she had requested.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah has indicated he would not support the legislation, saying it lacked “strong religious liberty protections.”
GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has repeatedly come under fire for her controversial comments, has made a point in standing in opposition to this legislation, and even went as far as posting an anti-transgender sign outside of her office directly across the hall from a lawmaker who has a transgender child.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addressed some of the “despicable comments made by a few Republicans about trans people,” without naming them on Thursday.
“Their attacks on trans people in the transgender community are just mean. Mean,” the Democrat from New York said at a news conference ahead of the Houses’ passage of the Equality Act. “And show a complete lack of understanding, complete lack of empathy. They don’t represent our views and they don’t represent the views of a majority of Americans. Their despicable comments just make my blood boil with anger. If I didn’t have a mask you could see my teeth gritting.”
“It breaks my heart that is necessary,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the legislation at her weekly press conference Thursday morning. “But the fact is, and in fact, we had a sad event here even this morning demonstrating the need for us to have respect. Not even just respect but take pride, take pride in our LGBTQ community.”