The House passed sweeping legislation on Thursday to ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, delivering a major victory to the LGBTQ community.
The Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to provide protections for LGBTQ individuals, garnered unanimous support from House Democrats on its way to approval on a 224-206 vote. Three Republicans crossed party lines to join Democrats to endorse the bill.
It’s a bill that President Joe Biden said on the campaign trail would be one of his top legislative priorities for the first 100 days of his presidency. When House Democrats introduced the bill last week, Biden reiterated his support in a statement.
“I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation,” he wrote. “Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all.”
It’s also controversial — while the Equality Act has broad support among Democrats, many Republicans oppose it, fearing that it would infringe upon religious objections.
But some Republicans worry that this week’s controversial antics from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who harassed Representative Marie Newman over her transgender daughter, have stomped on their attempts to sensitively communicate why they are opposed to the LGBTQ rights bill. Most Republicans say their opposition is not out of discriminatory sentiment toward LGBTQ people but Greene’s actions have effectively destroyed that argument.
The Greene-Newman incident has revived a thorny issue for the GOP, which has wrestled over its stance on gay marriage and battled accusations that it’s not inclusive or protective of LGBTQ rights.
Just last year, former Representative Denver Riggleman was censured by his state party for officiating a same-sex marriage; he wound up losing his primary race.
For Democrats, Greene’s comments about Newman’s daughter only underscore the importance of passing the LGBTQ rights bill, which is unlikely to pass the Senate in its current form. Advocates for the LGBTQ community argue that the sort of federal protections the bill would enshrine are long overdue, especially because more than half of states in the U.S. lack explicit legal protections for those discriminated against on the basis of sexuality or gender identity.
The LGBTQ rights bill would ban discrimination in various areas, including the workplace, housing and education, in addition to federally funded programs. The legislation also would expand the 1964 bill to cover public accommodations to include places like shopping malls, sports arenas, and even websites.
The measure’s House passage comes on the heels of President Joe Biden ending Donald Trump’s ban on transgender troops serving in the military. The bill passed the House in 2019, but LGBTQ activists are elated that it now has a shot at becoming law with Biden in the White House.
— Poli Alert (@polialertcom) February 25, 2021