The U.S. House today took a long-overdue step by passing the Equality Act, a measure addressing the anomaly that federal civil-rights laws don’t protect Americans from discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation would cover discrimination in employment and housing, education, jury duty, and federal financial assistance.
LGBTQ-rights efforts have in the past divided Democrats, but every one of them, including those thought to be social conservatives, like Illinois’s Dan Lipinski, voted for it. But only eight Republicans went along, reflecting the bill’s ultimate fate in the GOP-controlled Senate, which will bury it. It would have been vetoed by President Trump, in thrall to his homophobic conservative Evangelical base, in any event.
Indeed, the need for such legislation (which would be of particular importance in the 30 states without their own anti-discrimination laws in this area) has been dramatized by the administration’s own discriminatory actions, as the New York Times noted:
The bill, passed 236-173, comes as departments across the Trump administration have dismantled policies friendly to gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, like barring transgender recruits from serving in the military or formally rejecting complaints filed by transgender students who are barred from restrooms that match their gender identity.
House Republican rhetoric in opposition to the Equality Act fanned the usual tragicomic fears, as the Washington Post reported:
“It is bad for freedom to force small business owners all across this country to provide services or products to the public that may violate their deeply held faith-based convictions,” said Rep. Ross Spano (R-Fla). “Again, allowing the state to essentially impose from above top down its own moral codes and rules in place of those of the individual.”
Many Republicans also warned that if the bill became law, men who identify as women would take spots on women’s sports teams or get their scholarships …
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) said Democrats were making bad laws just to protect the feelings of “people who are gender confused or suffering gender dysphoria, the opposite of euphoria.”
It’s increasingly clear that the concerns addressed by the Equality Act will become one of many issues where the nation’s direction is at stake in the 2020 congressional and presidential elections.