U.S. House Will Vote on Equality Act Next Week
If passed, the bill would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination across the board.
The U.S. House of Representatives is set vote on the Equality Act next week. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) confirmed the LGBTQ+ civil rights legislation will be “coming to the floor next week” in a “Dear Colleague” letter obtained by the Washington Blade on Tuesday.
If passed, the Equality Act would amend existing civil rights law, like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics.
While the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County banned anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace, the Equality Act would provide federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in all aspects of life, including health care, housing, education, credit, and jury duty.
The legislation would also amend the Civil Rights Act to ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs and update the definition of public accommodations to include retail stores, banks, legal services, and transportation services. In addition, the Equality Act would ensure that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1994 could not be used to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.
The House first passed the Equality Act in 2019 by a 63-vote margin, but the bill never received a vote in the Senate. Since then, President Joe Biden has vowed to pass the Equality Act within his first 100 days in office, however, getting the bill through the Senate may prove more difficult than anticipated, even with a Democratic majority.
While the Senate is currently split 50–50, the Equality Act would need to get 60 votes in order to break a filibuster, meaning at least 10 Republicans would need to vote to pass the bill. So far, only Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have expressed support for the Equality Act and LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections in general. Finding an additional eight Republican senators to vote in favor of the bill will be challenging.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) has already expressed his opposition to the bill ahead of the House’s vote next week. On Tuesday, his spokesperson issued a statement on behalf of the senator, noting that Romney “believes that strong religious liberty protections are essential to any legislation on this issue, and since those provisions are absent from this particular bill, he is not able to support it.”
Not to mention, every single Democratic senator would need to support the bill, and as it stands, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is not completely on board. In March 2019, Manchin tweeted that, while he supports equality, he is “not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it.”
In his official statement, however, he clarified that he supports banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but takes issue with protections for transgender students in public schools. It’s possible that Manchin has since changed his mind about the bill, but he has yet to publicly support it if that’s the case.
While the Equality Act has been one of Biden’s largest campaign promises, passing it into law will be out of his control. And although the bill will likely make it through the House, the Senate is another beast altogether.