LGBTI Equality Act approved by the House Judiciary Committee

LGBTI Equality Act approved by the House Judiciary Committee
Photo: The United States House of Representatives by Ron Cogswell

The Equality Act, a wide-ranging bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee in the US.

LGBTI rights advocates have praised the ‘historic’ vote. It will now go to the full House for a vote at a later date.

The bill seeks to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected traits.

If passed, it would prohibit discrimination in various areas, including employment, housing, public accommodation, and more on a national level.

According to Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the 22-10 vote went along party lines. All Democrats voted in favor of the act, while all Republicans voted against it.

‘Discrimination in any form is wrong’

This is the third time Democrats have attempted to pass the Equality Act. On the two previous occasions the bill failed to advance past the committee.

The proposals in the bill are widely supported in the US. However, many religious communities – particularly Evangelicals – are more skeptical of the laws protecting LGBTI rights.

In his opening statement, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, said: ‘It is time that the federal government recognizes that discrimination in any form is wrong and that we should move forward with these common-sense protections that simply build on existing statutes.’

While Nadler stressed that the Equality Act would not interfere with religious freedoms, he added that it would ‘provide uniform protection for certain basic, fundamental rights of all Americans’.

‘Vote for this bill as if transgender Americans’ lives depend on it’

Keisling also released a statement praising the vote, the Advocate reports.

‘This vote is a historic recognition of the right of all people to live, labor, and learn without fear of prejudice or bigotry,’ Keisling said.

‘Particularly as the Supreme Court weighs whether to confirm or take away existing sex discrimination protections, it is more crucial than ever that Congress stand up and help build the country transgender people need and every person deserves.

‘We need members of Congress to vote for this bill as if transgender Americans’ lives depend on it, because they do depend on it.’

LGBTI rights group Human Rights Watch (HRC) posted a tweet celebrating the vote.

‘It’s time for Congress to add explicit federal LGBTQ non-discrimination protections to our nation’s civil rights laws,’ the group wrote.

Broad support 

Polling has found that there is wide-ranging support for the Equality Act throughout the US.

A survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) that around 70% of Americans would support a bill like the Equality Act.

Surveys have also found strong support for LGBTI employment protections among US businesses.

161 leading businesses in the US have joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act. The businesses are spread over all 50 states, have a combined revenue of over $3.8 trillion, and employ 8.7 million people across the US.

Currently, only 20 states in the US have laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. One state bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation only.

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Author: Calum Stuart

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