House to Vote on Legal LGBTQ Safeguards02/25 06:19
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Democratic-led House is poised to pass a bill that
would enshrine LGBTQ protections in the nation's labor and civil rights laws, a
top priority of President Joe Biden, though the legislation faces an uphill
battle in the Senate.
The Equality Act amends existing civil rights law to explicitly include
sexual orientation and gender identification as protected characteristics. The
protections would extend to employment, housing, loan applications, education,
public accommodations and other areas. Supporters say the law before the House
on Thursday is long overdue and would ensure that every person is treated
equally under the law.
"In the absence of federal civil rights protection, there are members of the
LGBTQ community who are fair game in the eyes of the law to be targeted, based
on sexual orientation," said House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem
Jeffries, D-N.Y. "That is not America."
Republicans broadly oppose the legislation, echoing concerns from religious
groups and social conservatives who worry the bill would force people to take
actions that contradict their religious beliefs. They warn that faith-based
adoption agencies seeking to place children with a married mother and father
could be forced to close, or that private schools would have to hire staff
whose conduct violates tenets of the school's faith.
"The bill may have equality in the title, but it certainly does not serve
all Americans," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. "It is a vehicle for serious,
The House passed the Equality Act in the last Congress with unanimous
Democratic support and the backing of eight Republicans, but Donald Trump's
White House opposed the measure and it was not considered in the Senate, where
60 votes will be needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Democrats are trying to
revive it now that they have control of Congress and the White House, but
passage appears unlikely in the evenly divided Senate.
The Supreme Court provided the LGBTQ community with a resounding victory
last year in a 6-3 ruling that said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to
LGBTQ workers when it comes to barring discrimination on the basis of sex.
Civil rights groups have encouraged Congress to follow up that decision and
ensure that anti-bias protections addressing such areas as housing, public
accommodations and public services are applied in all 50 states.
Biden made clear his support for the Equality Act in the lead-up to last
year's election, saying it would be one of his first priorities.
Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon said her home state of Pennsylvania was one
of 30 that doesn't have legal protections for LGBTQ people. She said the
Equality Act is needed to end "the patchwork of state laws" around gay rights
and create "uniform nationwide protection."
"It's been personal since my baby sister came out to me almost 40 years
ago," Scanlon said. "For many people all across this country and across this
House, that is when the fight hits home."
Leaders at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote lawmakers this week
to say they had grave concerns about the bill. Among the concerns the five
bishops raised is that the bill would expand the government's definition of
public places, forcing church halls and equivalent facilities to host functions
that violate their beliefs, which could lead to closing their doors to the
Some of the nation's largest corporations are part of a coalition in support
of the legislation, including Apple Inc., AT&T, Chevron and 3M Co., just to
name a few of the hundreds of companies that have endorsed it.