On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including employment, housing, and education. The vote was 224 to 206, with three Republicans joining Democrats in voting yes on the legislation.
Although this is only the second time that the Equality Act has passed the House of Representatives (the first was in 2019), it has actually been introduced by Rep. David Cicilline every year since 2015. However, unlike in 2019, when the legislation was shot down by the Republican-led Senate, the Democrats now control the House, the Senate, and the White House. In addition, President Biden has voiced his support for the Equality Act, both while on the campaign trail last year, and once again when the bill was introduced in the House last week.
“Full equality has been denied to LGBTQ+ Americans and their families for far too long,” [Biden] said in a statement. “The Equality Act provides long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity ... codifying the courage and resilience of the LGBTQ+ movement into enduring law.”
However, the Equality Act faces a difficult fight in the Senate, where Democrats need a 60 vote minimum to break a filibuster—which would require 10 Republican Senators to join the Democrats in voting to pass the legislation.
Currently, it’s legal to deny a person housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in 27 states. In 31, LGBTQ people can legally be denied access to education. Although over 21 states have passed laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people in a variety of different realms, these legislative protections often vary from state to state. If passed in the Senate, the Equality Act would universalize these protections across the nation.
Let’s hope the sixth time’s the charm!