The House Judiciary Committee passed the Equality Act for the first time in history, sending the bill to the full House for approval.
The Equality Act would, among other things, add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act, guaranteeing federal protections for LGBTQ people in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, and other areas.
The bill passed the committee on a 22-10 vote, with all ten Republican members of the committee voting against it.
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“This bill affirms those values and ensures members of the LGBTQ community can live their lives free from the fear of legal discrimination of any kind,” said Representative David Cicilline (D-NY).
“This vote is a historic recognition of the right of all people to live, labor, and learn without fear of prejudice or bigotry,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement.
“Particularly as the Supreme Court weighs whether to confirm or take away existing sex discrimination protections, it is more crucial than ever that Congress stand up and help build the country transgender people need and every person deserves.”
In an effort to stall the vote, Republican members of the committee asked for the full 27-page bill to be read for the record twice, which a Congressional staffer had to do.
This poor clerk is now being made to read the full text of the Equality Act—all 27 pages—for a second time this afternoon because of Republican nonsense.
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) May 1, 2019
— Mara Keisling (@MaraKeisling) May 1, 2019
Republicans’ arguments against the Equality Act at a hearing earlier this year focused on transgender women’s access to bathrooms and sports teams. Republicans went so far as to invite a lesbian activist who opposes transgender rights to speak at the hearing.
If the bill passes the Democratic-controlled House, it will go on to the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) believes that there are the 51 votes necessary to pass it in the Senate, but that it might not come up for a vote at all.
The Equality Act was first developed in 1974 by Representatives Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY). It has been introduced in every legislative session since 2015, where it died in committee until this year.
In addition to adding sexual orientation and gender identity to civil rights legislation, the Equality Act also updates the definition of sex to include “sex stereotype, sexual orientation or gender identity, and pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” and says that a “public accommodation” is not limited to physical locations.