The House voted 236-173 on Friday to pass historic legislation to ensure protections against discrimination for LGBTQ+ people.
“This vote is a monumental step forward in the fight for true, lived equality for LGBTQ people," said Ronald Newman, national political director at the ACLU, in a statement after the vote. “Finally, our elected officials stepped up to affirm that our nation’s civil rights laws protect everyone. It is now incumbent upon the Senate to finish this work. The ACLU will continue to fight for the advancement of this crucial legislation, and will be taking note of the members who stand in its way. The time for full equality for LGBTQ people is long overdue.”
The Equality Act, or H.R. 5, would provide protections nationwide on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation against discrimination in employment, schools, credit, housing, and public accommodations, and federally funded programs. The bill would also codify certain anti-discrimination protections for women and would extend discrimination protections for people of color. The members of the LGBT Equality Caucus — representatives David Cicilline, Angie Craig, Sharice Davids, Katie Hill, Sean Patrick Maloney, Chris Pappas, Mark Pocan, Mark Takano — originally sponsored the bill.
The vote came just months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratically-controlled Congress would prioritize voting for this legislation. “Once we pass this bill — and we will — we won’t stop there,” she wrote in an op-ed for The Advocate in March with out Rep. David Cicilline. “We will never rest until full equality has been achieved for the LGBTQ community. We will be relentless in our work to defeat the president’s discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ agenda and hateful attacks on the transgender community.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he has no plans to bring the Equality Act, which has 46 cosponsors, up to a vote. Even if the Senate did decide to vote, according to The Washington Blade at least 13 Republican members would have to join the Democrats in support to avoid a filibuster (barring no Democrats defect). Nonetheless, one advocate told The Blade that Sen. Jeff Merkley would attempt a “test vote” in the Senate through adding an amendment to another bill.
Additionally, the Trump Administration is expected to formally come out against the Equality Act now that it has officially moved forward in the House.
“The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,” a senior administration official told The Washington Blade earlier this week.
Voters have been generally supportive of legislation that would ensure protections against discrimination for LGBTQ+ people, with 69 percent agreeing that such laws are necessary, according to PRRI. Across religions, political affiliations, and all 50 states, a majority of Americans say they support antidiscrimination laws. Nonetheless, support has dropped among Republicans in recent years.
Rep. Pappas told Out earlier this year he thinks that’s due to the rise of President Trump and his anti-LGBTQ+ actions throughout his administration.
“We have a president who is on the wrong side of history and has been pushing a dangerous agenda that is undoing the great progress that was made during the Obama administration,” he said. “I think he’s sending the wrong message to his base and to the American people about the future of this country and who is a part of it.”
Even with the broad support, 26 states have no specific protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which means LGBTQ+ people could be fired, treated unfairly in schools, or barred from public services because of their identities, with little to no legal recourse.
Meanwhile, attempts to bar discrimination against LGBTQ+ people through federal laws have gone unsuccessful for decades.The Equality Act was first introduced to Congress in 2015, but similar versions of anti discrimination legislation has been brought to Congress each session since 1974. The Equality Act, however, would add protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation to the Civil Rights act of 1964.