The US House of Representatives on Thursday, February 25, passed the Equality Act, a landmark LGBTQ rights bill that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Lawmakers passed the legislation on a 224-206 vote.
It was largely along party-line with three Republicans throwing their support behind the bill with all Democrats. The bill is one of President Joe Biden’s top legislative priorities, one he wants to pass in his first 100 days in office. During his campaign, he said passage of the Equality Act would be a priority in his first 100 days in office.
“Today’s vote is a major milestone for equality bringing us closer to ensuring that every person is treated equally under the law,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Now, the ball is in the Senate’s court to pass the Equality Act and finally allow LGBTQ Americans the ability to live their lives free from discrimination.”
The legislation amends civil rights laws including the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which had banned discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin, to include protections on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.
It also would prohibit such discrimination in public places, on transportation and in government-funded programs. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who introduced the House measure, said “every American deserves respect and dignity,” and the Equality Act, if it became law, would “ensure that LGBTQ Americans can live lives free of discrimination.”
He said it was important to pass the legislation because many Americans thought the protections were already enshrined in law. The idea that Americans could be denied service in a restaurant simply because of their sexual orientation “doesn’t comport with our basic understanding of fairness and equality,” he said.
The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, which is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democratic caucus members. It would need at least 10 Republicans to vote with all Democrats to advance the bill.