- The House of Representatives on Friday passed the Equality Act, which would make sweeping reforms to the Civil Rights Act to include protections for LGBTQ Americans.
- The bill passed with unanimous support from Democrats, while Republican critics said it “chips away at our religious freedoms.”
- There is no indication the bill will receive a floor vote in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.
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WASHINGTON – The United States House of Representatives on Friday passed substantial reforms to the Civil Rights Act to include protections for LGBTQ Americans.
The bill, called the Equality Act, would protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in applying for credit, housing, employment, and more. But Republican critics of the legislation say it would harm religious freedoms, making it unlikely the GOP-led Senate will take up the bill.
The bill passed 236-173, with unanimous support from the Democratic caucus. In total, eight Republicans crossed the aisle to support the legislation.
“This is not only important to the LGBTQ community, it’s important for America, ending discrimination,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a Thursday press conference. “Our history has always been one of expanding freedom and reducing discrimination.”
Other Democratic leaders praised the bill, saying it would boost civil-rights protections across the board.
“Much of the history of the United States has been about expanding the definition of who is understood to be included when the Declaration of Independence says ‘All men are created equal,'” Rep. Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, said in a Friday floor speech. “When these words were first written, that phrase did not include black and Latino men. It did not include Native Americans. It did not include women. And it certainly did not include LGBTQ individuals.”
He added: “At this moment, we have an opportunity to continue our march toward justice – to enshrine in our nation’s laws protections for marginalized communities to ensure that everyone can fully participate in key areas of life and to provide them recourse in the face of discrimination.”
The bill was also endorsed by the New Democrat Coalition, a large group of moderate lawmakers in the House.
But Republicans vehemently opposed the legislation, saying it would roll back religious freedoms and laws in place to protect Americans who oppose abortion rights.
They said that because of language in the bill about discrimination against pregnant people and people who’ve given birth, it would prevent doctors from objecting to performing abortions for moral reasons.
“The Democrats’ latest piece of legislation is another mirage, packaged with a deceiving title, that ultimately chips away at our religious freedoms, would jeopardize Title IX sports programs, and puts our children at risk by eliminating parental consent in life-altering medical procedures,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement to The Daily Signal, the media arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Critics also said this would undermine Hyde Amendment protections that ensure that federal taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions.
As a result, the Republican-led Senate is not likely to consider the Equality Act. In addition, a senior White House official told the Washington Blade that President Donald Trump would not sign the bill in its current form.