House Approves LGBTQ Protections

Republicans call the bill, which has opposition in the Senate, an attack on religious freedom
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 25, 2021 5:32 PM CST
House Backs Civil Rights Protection for LGBTQ People
Rep. David Cicilline, right, speaks about the Equality Act on Thursday while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, Rep. Jerry Nadler, and Rep. Mark Takano listen.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(Newser) – The Democratic-led US House passed a bill Thursday that would enshrine LGBTQ protections in the nation's labor and civil rights laws, a top priority of President Biden's, though the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The bill passed 224-206 with three Republicans joining Democrats in voting yes, the AP reports. 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 legislation is long overdue and would ensure that every person is treated equally under the law. "The LGBT community has waited long enough," said Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, who is gay and the bill's lead sponsor. "The time has come to extend the blessings of liberty and equality to all of Americans regardless of who they are and who they love."

Republicans broadly opposed the legislation. They echoed concerns from religious groups and others who say the bill would force people to take actions that contradict their religious beliefs. They warned 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. "This is unprecedented. It's dangerous. It's an attack on our first freedom, the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights, religious liberty," said Republican Rep. Mike Johnson. 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 still appears unlikely in the evenly divided Senate. (Debate on the issue became personal.)

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