In passing out of the House, the long-awaited Equality Act is one step closer to reality
Three Republicans joined all the House Democrats in passing the bill on Feb. 26.
Out of the gate, President Biden has demonstrated that LGBTQ rights will not be swept under the rug during his administration.
Just days after his inauguration, the White House website updated its contact forms to allow non-binary individuals to use gender-inclusve pronouns and prefixes, such as “they/them” and the gender-neutral honorific, “Mx.”
Shortly after the update, Biden also signed an executive order that reversed the Trump-era policy that banned transgender individuals from joining the military.
These victories for the LGBTQ community are growing larger as the Equality Act moves from the House to the Senate for a vote.
On Thursday, Feb. 25, the House voted 224-206 to pass the bill, which would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
BREAKING: The House has voted 224-206 to pass the #EqualityAct, which would protect LGBTQ people in areas including in housing, education, public accommodations and access to credit. pic.twitter.com/89tiZEflzb
— GLAAD (@glaad) February 25, 2021
All House Democrats and three House Republicans — Reps. John Katko (NY), Tom Reed (NY), and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) — joined to pass the bill. The legislation will now move to the Senate, where it will face tougher opposition, as it requires all 50 Democrats and 10 Republican senators to pass it.
The bill has existed since 1974, but has been introduced in its current form four different times.
In 2019, it was passed by the House, but was blocked by the then-Republican-controlled Senate.
The Equality Act seeks to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly establish LGBTQ+ Americans as a class protected from discrimination.
The 2020 Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County ensures that all citizens deserve equal treatment under the law, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and Biden recently issued an executive order enforcing the decision.
The Equality Act would go further by banning discrimination for all federally-funded programs and “public accomodations,” like stores, rental establishments, hotels and stadiums.
LGBTQ groups have praised the House’s passage of the bill, citing that the Equality Act is the pinnacle of decades of work from activists.
I’m proudly displaying the Transgender Pride Flag outside my DC office to show love and solidarity to the Transgender community. I use my office and my platform to uplift people of all backgrounds, not tear them down.
I'm looking forward to voting for the #EqualityAct today! pic.twitter.com/LENzl1fgl9
— André Carson (@RepAndreCarson) February 25, 2021
“Sexual orientation and gender identity are not explicitly mentioned in federal anti-discrimination legislation, leaving LGBTQ folks, including youth, with very little recourse when facing discriminatory practices; the Equality Act seeks to fix that,” said Advocates for Youth President, Debra Hauser.
National Black Justice Coalition, a leading civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black LGBTQ+ people, including those with HIV/AIDS, also issued a statement in reaction to the historic vote.
“Today marks the first step in the next phase toward what we hope will be sweeping civil rights reforms for us all of us, in addition to historic, explicit federal protections from discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Executive Director David J. Jones.
New York Democrat, Mondaire Jones, one of the first openly-LGBTQ Black members of Congress, was particularly excited to be a part of this notable first step towards protecting a marginalized group of people that’s been fighting for so long.
.@RepMondaire, one of the first openly LGBTQ Black members of Congress, supports the #EqualityAct on the House floor:
"To grow up poor, Black and gay is to not see yourself anywhere. It is also to feel completely unseen as so many people around invalidate your very existence." pic.twitter.com/xWzF9jrsmY
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 25, 2021
“Today we send a powerful message to LGBTQ people around the country, and indeed around the world, that they are seen, that they are valued, that their lives are worthy of being protected,” Rep. Jones said.
When compared to the 70 countries in the world where being LGBTQ is criminalized, the U.S is one of the safer places for this community to pursue their right to happiness. Even so, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is still very prevalent, and legislation such as the Equality Act continues to face fierce opposition.
On the same day as the bill was passed, a U.S. Senator went on a transphobic rant comparing gender-affirming medical care to genital mutilation during the confirmation hearing of Dr. Rachel Levine, who is set to become the first openly-transgender official confirmed by the Senate.
Congresswoman Marie Newman spoke about how anti-trans discrimination affects transgender Americans like her daughter and Marjorie Taylor Greene replied to Newman calling her daughter “your biological son.” pic.twitter.com/JJ3tGGptat
— Aaron Fritschner (@Fritschner) February 24, 2021
The day before that, on Wednesday, Feb. 24, a U.S. congressman deliberately hung an anti-transgender sign outside of her office to mock her colleague across the hall for displaying the transgender flag in support of her trans child.
While the hatred may persist, there’s a chance that the bill will pass in the Senate, granting long-overdue federal protections for LGBTQ members across the country.