House of Representatives passes federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people

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When Nancy Pelosi said she would make it a priority to pass federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, she wasn’t just making a politician’s promise. Today, for the first time in American history, the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Equality Act.

“We’d like to thank the House Democratic majority, and especially Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for making the Equality Act a priority in this session of Congress,” Pride At Work executive director Jerame Davis said in an emailed statement. “The Equality Act is an essential step toward creating a just and fair society for all, but especially critical to our members, it will afford LGBTQ working people the dignity and respect they deserve on the job.”

“Today is a historic day—the first time a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill has come to the floor of the House.  This long overdue legislation will provide millions of LGBTQ Americans protections from being denied medical care, fired from their jobs, or thrown out of their homes simply because of who they are.

Related: Now religious hate groups are claiming the Equality Act will force doctors to perform abortions

“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.’  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 did not include LGBTQ individuals,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said on the floor as debate opened.

“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.”

Davis, however pointed out that the legislation’s chances of passage in the Senate are decidedly less likely.

“Currently, the majority of states lack the kind of protections the Equality Act would advance. Despite federal caselaw that has established discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity as sex discrimination, LGBTQ Americans still need explicit, durable protections that the Equality Act would provide,” he said.

“More than 70% of Americans support the Equality Act, but its fate is uncertain as it moves to the Senate for consideration. We call on the Senate to stand with LGBTQ Americans and pass the Equality Act with due haste.”

The Trump administration opposes the Equality Act. While the President claimed on the campaign trail that he supported LGBTQ rights, he has kowtowed to the religious right and has been the most anti-LGBTQ president in history.

“The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights,” a senior administration official told the Washington Blade earlier this week.

“The question before us is not whether the LGBTQ community faces outrageous and immoral discrimination, for the record shows that it clearly does,” Nadler added. “The question is whether we, as Congress, are willing to take action to do something about it.  The answer goes straight to the heart of who we want to be as a country—and today, that answer must be a resounding ‘yes’.”

“LGBTQ Americans are one step closer to being protected by federal law instead of living in a country where hard-working Americans in a majority of states can be fired from their jobs, denied housing opportunities, and turned away from other critical services – including access to health care – simply for being who they are. Fairness should never be a partisan political issue, and the Senate should pass this bill without delay,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD.

“I am so proud to have voted for and helped pass the Equality Act, a landmark bill that will protect LGBTQ people from all forms of discrimination,” Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky said. “As the proud grandmother of a young transgender man, I will not stop fighting until he is granted equal recognition and treatment under the law. He, like all people, deserves a fair chance to obtain and education, find housing, and support himself and his loved ones. He, like all people, deserves to live his life free from discrimination and fear. He, like all people, is human and deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.”

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