The House of Representatives voted 224-206 to pass the Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect people from being discriminated based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and other services as well as access to public accommodations such as restaurants.
John Katko, R-New York; Tom Reed, R-New York; and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania; voted with Democrats, as they did when the legislation passed in the House in 2019. In that vote, eight Republicans joined Democrats to vote for the legislation.
Advocates for the LGTBQ community argue the legislation will help protect people in states where it’s legal to discriminate against people and add the law is long overdue.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, announced Thursday he intends to bring this legislation to the floor.
“We are really excited to have the incredible support of President Biden and his commitment to make the Equality Act the law of the land,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, a co-sponsor of the Equality Act. “Every American deserves respect and dignity, and it’s important that the Equality Act become law because it will once and for all ensure that LGBTQ Americans can live lives free of discrimination.”
But critics of the legislation argue it raises serious concerns for religious communities as well as women’s sports. Republicans point to a provision in the legislation saying an individual could not be denied access to a restroom, locker room or dressing room based on their gender identity.
Opponents say that would force women and girls to share private spaces with men. Critics also say the bill could facilitate men participating in women’s sports if they identify as female.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, who is the chair of the most conservative caucus in the House, railed against the legislation, saying it would be a “devastating attack on humanity.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the Equality Act is just a part of an “onslaught against freedom” from the Biden administration.
One Republican freshman who has repeatedly come under fire for her controversial comments, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, has made a point in standing in opposition 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.
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,” he said at a news conference. “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.