The Equality Act passed the House of Representatives Thursday with full Democratic support, but with only three Republicans signing on.
The bill enshrines LGBTQ protections in the nation’s labor and civil rights laws, a top priority for President Joe Biden.
The vote was 224 for the bill and 206 against.
Among the Republicans who bucked their party were Reps. John Katko and Tom Reed of New York and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who had all voted in favor of the Equality Act before.
When the Equality Act passed the last Congress in May 2019, eight Republicans overall had joined their Democratic colleagues.
Two current members – Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Mario Díaz-Balart of Florida – switched their yes votes to no. Three other Republicans who had voted in the affirmative in 2019 are no longer in Congress.
The Equality Act amends existing civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identification as protected characteristics.
The protections would extend to employment, housing, loan applications, education, public accommodations and other areas.
The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act Thursday, but with fewer Republican votes than when the House passed the bill in the last Congress
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Democrat, was one of only three Republicans to cross the aisle in support of the Equality Act, after eight Republicans had voted in favor of the LGBTQ civil rights bill in 2019
New York Republicans Rep. Tom Reed (left) and Rep. John Katko also voted for the bill alongside the entire Democratic House caucus. The two lawmakers had also voted for the Equality Act’s previous iteration in the last Congress
The House is on the cusp of again passing the Equality Act, which would enshrine LGBTQ protections in the nation’s labor and civil rights laws
On Thursday morning, the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus held a press conference where they characterized the bill as anti-woman and said it would allow male athletes to compete in women’s sports
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (center), alongside members of the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus, has been adamently against the bill
Conservative House Freedom Caucus members argued Thursday that the Equality Act would allow ‘biological men’ to participate in women’s sports. Here transgender athlete Terry Miller wins a 55-meter dash over other runners in the Connecticut girls Class S indoor track meet
Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, was one of the LGBTQ lawmakers who spoke on the floor Thursday about his own experiences as he backed passage of the Equality act
Supporters say the law before the House on Thursday is long overdue and would ensure that every person is treated equally under the law.
‘In the absence of federal civil rights protection, there are members of the LGBTQ community who are fair game in the eyes of the law to be targeted, based on sexual orientation,’ said House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York. ‘That is not America.’
On the House floor Thursday, Democrats would often bring up family members who are part of the LGBTQ community – or talk about there own experiences of being a member.
‘I was often too scared to come out of the closet, too blinded by fear to see clearly my own value my own equality, my younger self could never imagine standing on the floor of the House as a member of congress voting for legislation that, if enacted, would make me equal in the eyes of the law,’ said New York Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres, the first gay Afro-Latino member of Congress.
Some Republicans oppose the legislation echoing concerns from religious groups and social conservatives who worry the bill would force people to take actions that contradict their religious beliefs.
Rep. David Cicilline, the openly gay Rhode Island Democrat who is spearheading its passage, said religious guardrails still exist.
‘The Equality Act is very careful not to disturb the existing religious exemptions, so whatever religious exemptions exist under current law remain in place,’ he told Politico’s Huddle. ‘We’re not asking for any more protections or any less.’
But Republicans warned that faith-based adoption agencies seeking to place children with a married mother and father could be forced to close, or that private schools would have to hire staff whose conduct violates tenets of the school’s faith.
‘The bill may have equality in the title, but it certainly does not serve all Americans,’ said Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina. ‘It is a vehicle for serious, harmful consequences.’
On the floor, Republicans brought up the country’s ‘Judeo-Christian’ and quoted Bible verses.
Rep. Al Green, a Texas Democrat, lashed out at Republicans saying, ‘You used God to segregate me in schools. You used God to put me in the back of the bus.’ ‘This is not about God, it’s about men who choose to discriminate against other people because they have the power to do so,’ Green added
Rep. Al Green, a Texas Democrat, lashed out at this line of argument during a fiery floor speech.
‘You used God to segregate me in schools. You used God to put me in the back of the bus,’ Green said.
‘This is not about God, it’s about men who choose to discriminate against other people because they have the power to do so,’ Green said.
Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat, also connected the Equality Act with previous civil rights battles.
‘For anyone who ever wondered what they would have done in those days in the early 1960s when the civil rights legislation was being debated here – let me just say this, whatever you’re doing is what you would have done,’ Kildee said.
Rep. Jim Jordan, who was tracking the Republicans’ time for debate, yelled that the comment Kildee made was ‘ridiculous.’
Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart plans to introduce a similar bill Friday, the Fairness for All Act, which he says both protects LGBTQ people and religious liberties, the Washington Blade reported.
The even more conservative House Freedom Caucus argued that the bill was anti-woman.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, an Arizona Republican, said Thursday morning that the ‘Democrat bill … will affectively outlaw private facilities for women and girls.’
‘There will be no privacy or safety in bathrooms, locker rooms, showers because this bill requires, under penalty of federal law, for schools, any facility that’s open to the public … that you take in biological males who identify as women and put them right next to the girls and the women in the showers, the locker rooms and bathrooms,’ Lesko said.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican who’s in the past peddled the QAnon conspiracy theory, said at the morning press conference that allowing trans women to play sports with cisgender women would lead to lost opportunities and even injuries for the latter.
‘Is Kamala Harris going to apologize to the girl who would lose her athletic scholarship to the boy who outplays her? Will Joe Biden tell the parents who gets her skull crushed, how fair that is? Will Nancy Pelosi please explain to our daughters why boys pretending to be girls are leering at them in the girls’ locker room?’ Boebert said.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who also appeared at the press conference, has spent the past day in a symbolic fight with her Congressional neighbor, Rep. Marie Newman, who has a trans daughter.
Newman installed a trans flag outside her office, so Greene and her staff could see it from their office door.
Greene retaliated by posting a sign that said, ‘There are two genders: Male & Female. Trust the science!’
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene put up a sign outside her office to troll Democratic Rep. Marie Newman, who has a trans daughter. It reads: ‘There are two genders: Male & Female. Trust the science!’
‘The Equality Act is a completely evil, disgusting, immoral bill,’ Greene said Thursday.
During her weekly press conference Thursday, a visibly upset Pelosi referred to Greene’s stunt as a ‘sad event, even this morning, demonstrating the need for us to have respect.’
Later Thursday, Greene tied up the House floor by making a motion to adjourn, forcing a vote.
‘I moved to adjourn for the day to give the 117th Congress more time to think about this immoral bill,’ she tweeted.
The Democratic majority overruled her 219 to 199, with two Republicans joining Democrats, Reps. Tom Rice and John Rutherford.
When debate commenced, a number of Republicans brought up women’s bathrooms and sports issues.
Rep. Randy Weber, a Texas Republican, said the bill ‘smacks of President Barack Obama’s transgender bathroom policy several years back.’
Weber then told a story, he claimed took place in Texas, where a man followed a girl into the bathroom ‘who said he self-identified as a female that day.’
‘Turns out that man’s teeth were knocked out by the girl’s father, who self-identified as the tooth fairy,’ Weber added.
Weber’s claims were quickly fact-checked by Reuters and were found to be false.
Comments like these led to Democrats, like Rep. Rashida Tlaib, calling out the ‘bigots.’
‘Including those in Congress,’ Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, noted.
She said ‘their time is over.’
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, called out the ‘bigots’ ‘including those in Congress,’ telling them ‘their time is over’
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene stalled the House’s floor vote on the Equality Act making a motion to adjourn Thursday afternoon
The House passed the Equality Act in the last Congress with unanimous Democratic support and the backing of eight Republicans, but former President Donald Trump’s White House opposed the measure and it was not considered in the Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to overcome procedural hurdles.
Democrats are trying to revive it now that they have control of Congress and the White House, but passage appears unlikely in the evenly divided Senate.
The Supreme Court provided the LGBTQ community with a resounding victory last year in a 6-3 ruling that said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to LGBTQ workers when it comes to barring discrimination on the basis of sex.
Civil rights groups have encouraged Congress to follow up that decision and ensure that anti-bias protections addressing such areas as housing, public accommodations and public services are applied in all 50 states.
Biden made clear his support for the Equality Act in the lead-up to last year’s election, saying it would be one of his first priorities.
Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon said her home state of Pennsylvania was one of 30 that doesn’t have legal protections for LGBTQ people.
She said the Equality Act is needed to end ‘the patchwork of state laws’ around gay rights and create ‘uniform nationwide protection.’
‘It’s been personal since my baby sister came out to me almost 40 years ago,’ Scanlon said. ‘For many people all across this country and across this House, that is when the fight hits home.’
Leaders at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote lawmakers this week to say they had grave concerns about the bill.
Among the concerns the five bishops raised is that the bill would expand the government’s definition of public places, forcing church halls and equivalent facilities to host functions that violate their beliefs, which could lead to closing their doors to the broader community.
Some of the nation’s largest corporations are part of a coalition in support of the legislation, including Apple Inc., AT&T, Chevron and 3M Co., just to name a few of the hundreds of companies that have endorsed it.