One step forward: House passes LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill
The first step in passing the LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill, the Equality Act, was achieved Friday as the Democrat majority in the House approved the bill.
The lawmakers, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), voted in favor of the bill, 236, with 173 against. The bill had earlier been tagged a top priority in the House after the mid-term polls.
Known as HR 5, the Equality Act is set to extend civil rights protections to the LGBTQ people by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBT anti-discrimination bill: The next battleground
Under the Equality Act, civil rights protections would extend towards areas like employment, housing, education, loan applications, and public accommodations.
“No one should lose their job because of who they are or who they love,” Pelosi said, adding that sexual orientation and gender identity “deserve full civil rights protections.”
Most Republicans had opposed the bill as an example of government overreach. During a news conference on Thursday, Republicans had said the bill jeopardizes religious freedom.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo) said the bill threatens women’s sports, shelters, and schools.
A bill similar to the Equality Act has been co-sponsored at the Senate with almost all Democrat members backing it. However, the upper chamber is controlled by Republicans and faces long odds.
A top Trump administration official, who asked not to be identified, has said that “this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.”
President Donald Trump also reportedly plans to block the bill if and when it goes to him.
Arguments surrounding the LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), who was the bill’s chief sponsor, said the proposed legislation “and ensures members of the LGBTQ community can live their lives free from the fear of legal discrimination of any kind.”
However, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga) said the the bill could cost Catholic schools federal grants for school lunches. It could also require faith-based adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples.
Republicans have also said the bill is exempt from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which says religious exercise cannot be burdened unless there is a compelling reason.
“It would allow the government to force its rigid and unyielding fist inside the church,” said Rep. Ross Spano (R-Fl).
Meanwhile, Neena Chaudhry, a lawyer for the National Women’s Law Center, said the Equality bill doesn’t undermine Title IX as courts have already determined that Title IX protects against gender-identity discrimination.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), who is one of the Senate bill’s lead sponsors, said: “It is way past time to fully open the doors of opportunity for every American.”
LGBTQ groups cheer easy passage of Equality bill
Still, LGBTQ advocate groups were jubilant over the victory achieved in the House.
“Today’s historic vote is a major milestone for equality and sends a powerful and profound message to LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth, that the US House has their backs,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.
Meanwhile, Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, said: “Fairness should never be a partisan political issue, and the Senate should pass this bill without delay.”
Andy Marra, Executive Director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, said this is a “tremendous step towards achieving full and lived equality for transgender people.”
“Discrimination against LGBTQ Americans is not only bad for businesses, it is un-American,” said Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.
Lastly, Allison Scott, Director of Policy and Programs for the Campaign for Southern Equality, said this vote is “a reflection of the broad public support for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, including majority support in every state in the South.”