The US House of Representatives has passed a historic bill that would extend civil rights protections to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill, which was first passed by the Democratic-led House back in 2019, will now face significant challenges ahead in the Senate, with widespread opposition from Republicans.
The Gay and Transgender Equality Act was passed largely along party lines, with the support of all Democrats and just three Republican representatives.
As per NPR, President Joe Biden promised while on the campaign trail that the bill would be among his top legislative priorities during his first 100 days in office.
After the bill was introduced by House Democrats, President Biden once again declared his support in a statement:
I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation. Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all.
However, although the act has broad support among Democrats, it is opposed by many Republicans who fear it could infringe upon religious objections, meaning its future in the Senate remains unclear.
This marks the second time the Democratic-led House had passed the Equality Act, which seeks amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, adding explicit bans on discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in both public and private spaces.
The Equality Act would enshrine non-discrimination protections into law for sexual orientation and gender identity, rather than these protections being placed under the umbrella of ‘sex’. This act would also substantially build upon existing protections.
The Civil Rights Act covered discrimination in specific areas, such as employment and housing. The Equality Act would expand upon this to cover federally-funded programs, and ‘public accommodations’, which would encompass places such as retail stores and stadiums.
The bill was first passed by the House in 2019. However, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to take it up. President Biden has now encouraged the Democratic-controlled Congress to ‘swiftly pass’ the bill, calling it a ‘critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality’.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence, contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 10am–6pm Monday to Friday, or email helpl[email protected]