Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives pose for a photograph holding LBGT+ and Transgender Pride flags on the steps of the U.S. Capitol ahead of a vote on the Equality Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 25, 2021.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
The House on Thursday passed legislation that would extend existing civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics.
The bill would ensure equal treatment for LGBTQ individuals in areas including employment, education, housing, credit, public accommodations and others.
“The time has come to extend the blessings of liberty and equality to all Americans, regardless of who they are or who they love,” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who introduced the bill, said on the House floor.
The House voted 224 to 206 to pass the legislation largely along party lines. All Democrats and three Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
The legislation now moves to the Senate, where it will require at least 10 Republican votes to avoid a Senate filibuster and move the bill to a vote. As of now, no Senate Republicans have signed on to support the legislation.
The Equality Act passed in the House in 2019, but stalled in the Republican-led Senate. Conservative opponents have claimed the legislation would infringe on their religious freedom.
“With Democrats in the majority, the Senate will have the opportunity to act on this critical civil rights legislation,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a press conference Thursday. “I will use my power as Majority Leader to put it on the floor and let’s see where everybody stands.”
President Joe Biden also supports the bill, touting it on the campaign trail as a top priority.
LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD called the passage of the Equality Act in the House a “victory for all Americans who believe discrimination against LGBTQ people is wrong and the law should secure core values of equal treatment.”
Roughly seven in 10 Americans, including 62% of Republicans, support laws banning LGBTQ individuals from discrimination, a 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found.
“This legislation is personal for me. Just six years ago, LGBTQ Americans like my daughter won the legal right to marry who they love,” Schumer said.
“The Equality Act would make sure she can continue living her life with her wife with the security and dignity of knowing she won’t face basic discrimination because of who she is.”