Joe Biden urges congress to ‘swiftly pass’ historic Equality Act and finally protect LGBT+ Americans

President Joe Biden

Joe Biden has called on congress to move quickly in passing the Equality Act to enshrine LGBT+ rights once and for all.

After Democrats David Cicilline and Jeff Merkley formally reintroduced the Equality Act to the House of Representatives, the president compelled congress to finally pass the legislation, which has lingered for years.

“I applaud congressman David Cicilline and the entire Congressional Equality Caucus for introducing the Equality Act in the House of Representatives yesterday, and I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation,” Biden said in a statement.

“Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all.”

Biden continued: “Full equality has been denied to LGBTQ+ Americans and their families for far too long.

“Despite the extraordinary progress the LGBTQ+ community has made to secure their basic civil rights, discrimination is still rampant in many areas of our society.

“The Equality Act provides long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, locking in critical safeguards in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems — and codifying the courage and resilience of the LGBTQ+ movement into enduring law.”

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, public education, and a number of other areas.

Cicilline and Merkley announced that the Equality Act had been reintroduced to the House on Thursday (18 February).

“In 2021, every American should be treated with dignity and respect,” Cicilline tweeted.

“After so many years of waiting for full LGBTQ equality, the time as come.”

It was passed by the House in 2019 by a vote of 236-173, but was never even brought for a vote in the Senate, which was under Republican control.

Now that Democrats have effective control of both chambers, the hope is that the legalisation will be passed swiftly, in accordance with Biden’s pledge to enact it within his first 100 days.

However, it may have trouble clearing the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans are tied 50-50.

Vice president Kamala Harris has the ability to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate if the bill gains exactly 50 votes, but one Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, has previously declared his opposition to the bill.

To make matters worse, 60 votes would be needed to override a likely GOP filibuster effort unless Democrats succeed in abolishing the filibuster mechanism – which Manchin and another conservative Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, have both stated their opposition to supporting.