House of Representatives approve Equality Act in historic move

Legislation calling for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected from discrimination has been approved by the House.

On Friday (May 17), the landmark bill was passed through the House of Representatives with a 236-173 vote led by Democrats.

The Equality Act bill would provide protection to people living in states where it’s legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This protection would extend across education, employment, housing and public spaces.

“The question before us is not whether the LGBT community faces outrageous and immoral discrimination, for the record shows that it clearly does,” said New York Representative Jerrold Nadler and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

“The question is whether we, as Congress, are willing to take action to do something about it. The answer goes straight to the heart of who we want to be as a country — and today, that answer must be a resounding ‘yes’.”

Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and lead sponsor of the bill, said “LGBT people across the country remain vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis and too often have little recourse.”

Cicilline added, “it is past time for the Equality Act to be written into law.”

“No one should lose their job because of who they are or who they love.”

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Equality Act now heads to the Senate and White House

While it’s a historic move for LGBT rights in America, the news is somewhat bittersweet as it’s unlikely to pass through the Republican-led Senate and White House.

Republicans have claimed that by supporting the rights of transgender women the bill would threaten women in restrooms while it would also allow children to easily undergo gender transitions.

Opponents also believe the bill would allow men to participate in women’s sports if they identify as female.

“Requiring biological females (to) face competition from biological males will mean the end of women’s sports in any meaningful sense,” said Florida Republican Greg Steube.

Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, said the bill was “not about a red herring about men wanting to play in women’s sports,” and that it was “about people like my husband Phil and I.”

Rep. Mark Pocan said the Equality Act was not about "men wanting to play in women's sports." (Al Drago/Getty Images)

Rep. Mark Pocan said the Equality Act was not about “men wanting to play in women’s sports.” (Al Drago/Getty Images)

Holding up a photo of his husband, Pocan added:  “If we pass the Equality Act, people like Phil and I can be free to love who we want to love and live where we want to live and we can work where we want to work, without being fired or evicted simply because of who we are and who we love.”

A previous report suggested that President Donald Trump opposed the Equality Act, with a senior administration official saying the current form of the bill was “filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.”

Televangelist Pat Robertson also said the United States would erupt into an “atomic war” if the bill was ever passed through the White House.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin said the vote was a “major milestone for equality and sends a powerful and profound message to LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth, that the U.S. House has their backs.

“Now, we will take our fight to the U.S. Senate and turn up the pressure on Leader McConnell to allow a vote on this crucial legislation.”