WASHINGTON (AP) – The Democratic-run House stands ready to pass bill that will anchor the protection of LGBTQ people in the country’s labor and civil rights laws, a top priority for President Joe Biden, despite an uphill battle for Senate legislation .
The Equal Opportunities Act changes the existing Civil Rights Act to the effect that sexual orientation and gender identification are expressly included as protected features. Protection would extend to employment, housing, loan applications, education, public housing and other areas. Supporters say the law in front of the house on Thursday is long overdue and will ensure everyone is treated equally under the law.
“In the absence of federal civil rights protection, there are members of the LGBTQ community who, in the eyes of the law, are a fair game that must be targeted on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Conference, DN.Y. “This is not America.”
Republicans largely oppose the legislation, reiterating the concerns of religious groups and socially conservative politicians who fear the bill will force people to take action that contradicts their religious beliefs. They warn that faith-based adoption agencies seeking to place children with a married mother and father may be forced to close or that private schools may have to hire staff whose conduct violates the school’s beliefs.
“The bill may be the same in title, but it certainly doesn’t serve all Americans,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, RN.C. “It’s a vehicle for serious, damaging consequences.”
The House passed the equality bill in the last Congress with unanimous Democratic support and the backing of eight Republicans, but Donald Trump’s White House opposed the move and was ignored in the Senate, where 60 votes will be required to overcome procedural hurdles. Democrats are trying to revive it now that they have control of Congress and the White House, but passage seems unlikely in the evenly divided Senate.
The Supreme Court gave the LGBTQ community a resounding victory in a 6-3 ruling last year that the 1964 Civil Rights Act applies to LGBTQ workers when it comes to eliminating gender discrimination. Civil rights groups have encouraged Congress to pursue this decision and ensure that anti-bias protections are in place in areas such as housing, public housing, and public services in all 50 states.
Biden made his support for the equality law clear in the run-up to last year’s elections, saying it was one of his top priorities.
Democratic MP Mary Gay Scanlon said her home state of Pennsylvania was one of around 30 that do not provide legal protection for LGBTQ people. She said the Equal Opportunities Act was necessary to end the “patchwork of state laws” relating to homosexual rights and create “uniform nationwide protection.”
“It has been personal since my little sister came to me nearly 40 years ago,” said Scanlon. “For many people across the country and throughout the house, this is when the fight comes home.”
The debate among lawmakers on Capitol Hill has also become personal. Marie Newman, D-Ill., Whose daughter is transgender, tweeted a video of her placing a transgender flag in front of her office. Her office is across from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Who was recently banned from two committees due to previous comments and tweets.
“Our neighbor, @RepMTG, has tried to block the equality law because she believes the ban on discrimination against trans-Americans is“ gross, immoral and evil. ”I thought we would fly our transgender flag so they would see it every time can when she opens her door. ”Newman tweeted.
Greene responded with a video of her own in which she posted a sign that read “There are two sexes: MALE and FEMALE. “Trust Science!”
“Our neighbor, @RepMarieNewman, wants to pass the so-called“ Equal Opportunities Act ”to destroy women’s rights and religious freedom. I thought we’d put ours up so she could look at them every time she opened her door, ”Greene tweeted.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Pointed out the exchange to lobby for the bill on Thursday.
“I wish it wasn’t like that. It breaks my heart that it is necessary, but the fact is, and in fact we had a sad event here this morning that shows that we must have respect, ”said Pelosi, pausing once and sighing deeply. “Not just respect, but pride, pride in our LGBT community.”
Leaders of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to lawmakers this week that they had serious concerns about the bill. One of the concerns raised by the five bishops was that the bill would expand the government’s definition of public spaces, forcing church halls and equivalent facilities to hold events contrary to their beliefs, which could open their doors to the wider community getting closed.
Some of the largest companies in the country are part of a coalition in support of legislation, including Apple Inc., AT&T, Chevron, and 3M Co., to name a few of the hundreds of companies that have endorsed them.
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