The Equality Act, a historic bill that supports the fair and equal treatment of LGBTQ individuals (based on both sexual orientation and gender identity) in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, credit and jury service passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 25.
Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who introduced the current bill in March 2019, was thrilled with its passage, saying “The LGBTQ community has waited long enough. The time has come to extend the blessings of liberty and equality to all Americans, regardless of who they are or who they love.”
My remarks on the #EqualityAct a few minutes ago, “The LGBTQ community has waited long enough. The time has come to extend the blessings of liberty and equality to all Americans, regardless of who they are or who they love.” pic.twitter.com/SKFaQkZCFS
— Congressman David N. Cicilline (@RepCicilline) February 25, 2021
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, echoed those sentiments, saying in a statement: “Today’s vote is a major milestone for equality bringing us closer to ensuring that every person is treated equally under the law.”
Dan Avery of NBC News reported that “The 224-206 vote was largely along party lines, with just three Republicans throwing their support behind the bill.” He added that “the act amends the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity. It’s been introduced every year since 2015 by Cicilline” — one of nine current LGBTQ representatives within the house.
While the bill has the support of the White House (President Joe Biden included passage of the Equality Act as one of the key things he hoped to accomplish within his first 100 days in office), Avery said the bill faces an “uphill battle” in the Senate, needing more than 60 votes in order to pass without threat of a filibuster.
In addition to Republican Senators who may not be willing to stand up for equality for all Americans, the bill is also being challenged by groups like The Promise to America’s Children, a coalition which includes right-wing groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Policy Alliance.
For their part, the group has centered their battle against The Equality Act on fear, attempting to scare parents into signing petitions and pledges over irrational bias against transgender individuals and how they might impact children’s “minds,” “bodies” and “relationships with their parents.”
It’s an argument without much weight, yet whether enough Republicans will side with Democrats and commit to full passage of The Equality Act remains to be seen.
Rep. Alexander “Al” Green of Texas, for one, hopes Senate Republicans will ultimately come to their senses and approve the bill. In a moving speech he made ahead of casting his vote for the measure, Rolling Stone’s Peter Wade reported that Green “fought back against the notion that God and religion are adequate reasons to deny people their civil rights.”
Quoting Maya Angelou, Green explained his vote, saying: “And still I rise, Mr. Speaker. You used God to enslave my foreparents. You used God to segregate me in schools. You used God to put me in the back of the bus. Have you no shame? God created every person in this room. Are you saying that God made a mistake? This is not about God, it’s about men who choose to discriminate against other people because they have the power to do so. My record will not show that I voted against Mr. Cicilline having his rights. My record will show that when I had the opportunity to deliver liberty and justice for all, I voted for rights for all.”