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Civil Rights

House Passes Legislation to Prohibit Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

— February 27, 2021

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation that would extend existing civil rights protections to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

However, the passage of the bill—now known as The Equality Act—was anything but smooth sailing.

The Equality Act, notes the New York Times, barely managed to pass the House. The 224-206 vote was made almost entirely along party lines, with most House Republicans refusing to support the legislation.

The passage of the act is the second time in 2020 that the U.S. House of Representatives has tried to extend provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to non-heterosexual people.

But, as the New York Times observes, the House’s approval doesn’t mean the act will become law. With the Senate filibuster still in place, and Thursday’s vote having a markedly partisan undertone, it’s unlikely the bill will receive enough support from conservative senators to make its way to President Biden’s desk.

Nevertheless, the bill’s lead sponsor—Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat who’s openly gay—said it’s high time the United States make progressive chances to its civil rights statutes.

A man in a suit speaks into a microphone in front of a large American flag.
Rand Paul. Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

“In most states,” Cicilline said, “LGBTQ people can be discriminated against because of who they are, or who they love.

“It is past time for that to change,” he said.

Unfortunately, House discussion on the bill was anything but civil—and, if anything, indicative of a deep socio-cultural divide.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, a freshman Georgia lawmaker who’s best known for adhering to bizarre conspiracy theories, intentionally used controversial language in attempts to demean or otherwise put down her liberal colleagues.

Rep. Taylor Green, for instance, repeatedly referred to the transgender daughter of Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) as “your biological son.”

Taylor Green’s attacks on LGBTQ Americans were echoed in the other chamber of Congress. The New York Times reports that Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, also made a series of pointed remarks to Dr. Rachel Levine, one of President Joe Biden’s top picks for a prominent health posting.

If confirmed, Levine would be the first transgender woman to hold a Senate-confirmed position.

But Sen. Paul opened his remarks with a blistering tirade on “genital mutilation” before demanding to know whether Dr. Levine would support sex change surgeries and hormone treatments for underage children.

Rand’s remarks, at the very least, show the sort of the opposition The Equality Act will face once it’s moved to the Senate for consideration.

NBC News notes that a complementary piece of legislation, entitled the Juror Non-Discrimination Act, would make it unlawful for state and local prosecutors to exclude jurors on grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


House Passes Sweeping Gay and Transgender Equality Legislation

Jurors can be rejected for being gay. The Equality Act could change that.

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