The Equality Act passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday is being hailed as a landmark bill for LGBTQ rights.
Similar legislation has bounced around the houses of Congress since the 1970’s, but had failed to gain traction. Following a June 2020 Supreme Court ruling of Bostock v. Clayton County, legislative interest was renewed when the nations highest court ruled that employment protections in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applied to gay and trasgender people.
Under the bill passed Thursday 224 to 206, it would amend existing civil rights legislation to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity in public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system.
Pride Center of Western New York Executive Director Damian Mordecai said while New York has been a leader in this area, federal legislation is needed to make sure discrimination on basis of sexual orientation or identity isn’t allowed to continue anywhere.
“We've made a lot of progress in this state. And yet, half of LGBTQ people living in 29 states still lack comprehensive statewide laws that would protect from discrimination,” Mordecai said. “LGBTQ people across the country are really vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis, and too often have little recourse.”
Mordecai hailed the Equality Act as a very comprehensive bill, which would give LGBTQ individuals protection against discrimination that he said oftentimes forces people into long legal remidies.
“Right now, what people are really being faced with is having to go up to the Supreme Court, in many cases, just to find out whether they're going to be American citizens or second class citizens,” he said. “And that’s a real shame, so this is a really important law.”
The proposed law now moves into the Senate, where it once was already in 2019 under a then-Republican majority that refused a full vote on the floor. Now with the Democrats maintaining the edge in a 50-50 split Senate, the Equality Act still faces an uphill battle for 60 votes.