HISTORY: Equality Orgs Celebrate U.S. House Passing Equality Act

A bipartisan ­majority of the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination throughout daily life.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives, on Friday, passed The Equality Act (H.R. 5,) by a 236-173 margin.

This vote marks the first time in U.S. history that a chamber of Congress has advanced legislation providing for nationwide, explicit, and comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The legislation also fills significant gaps in our federal civil rights laws for all women and people of color, clarifying that everyone is protected under the law.

One of the Democrats top ten priorities for this Congress and sponsored by out LGBTQ Representative David Cicilline, the Equality Act would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to extend protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill now moves to the Republican conrolled U.S. Senate where it is expected to face strong opposition. Still, equality advocates are celebrating the history making vote.

“This vote is a monumental step forward in the fight for true, lived equality for LGBTQ people," said Ronald Newman, national political director at the ACLU. "For too long, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and especially transgender and non-binary members of our communities have had to live with the constant threat of discrimination and harassment. This law would protect them from being fired from their jobs if they came out as trans, turned away from a business serving the public because of their gender presentation, or denied a lease agreement if they applied with their same-sex partner."

“Finally, our elected officials stepped up to affirm that our nation’s civil rights laws protect everyone," Newman continued. "It is now incumbent upon the Senate to finish this work. The ACLU will continue to fight for the advancement of this crucial legislation, and will be taking note of the members who stand in its way. The time for full equality for LGBTQ people is long overdue.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, hailed Friday's vote.

“Today's historic vote is a major milestone for equality and sends a powerful and profound message to LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ youth, that the U.S. House has their backs,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “No one’s rights should depend on which side of a state or city line they live on, and today we took a giant step forward in our journey toward full equality. This historic victory would not have been possible without the millions of LGBTQ people and our allies who organized, mobilized and turned out to elect a pro-equality majority in 2018. Now, we will take our fight to the U.S. Senate and turn up the pressure on Leader McConnell to allow a vote on this crucial legislation. And we won’t slow down in working to turn out the 10 million eligible LGBTQ voters and our millions more allies to elect a pro-equality president in 2020 who will sign the Equality Act into law.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, also applauded the historic vote:

"Today’s vote marks a proud triumph for the liberty of transgender people nationwide. Transgender people have been denied our freedom for generations, trapped by the ignorance, fear, and violence that marks too many of our lives. Under Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Cicilline’s leadership, the House has today set the groundwork for a future in which transgender people are free to prosper and thrive alongside their fellow Americans.

"But we have not come this far to only come this far. Leader McConnell must bring this bill to the Senate floor for a vote. Denying transgender people their most basic rights would be nothing short of a moral crime, one that would stain this Senate for years. Now is not the time for brinkmanship, partisanship, or cowardice. Now is the time Senators must fulfill their duty to uphold the rights of all people in their states and serve the interests of the nation over the interests of party."

PFLAG National—the nation’s first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies—joined in celebrating the news:

“PFLAGers across the country thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) for their leadership in introducing the Equality Act, and the many Representatives from across the country who today cast their historic votes in favor of equality, fairness, and safety,” said Brian K. Bond, former Obama White House official and now Executive Director of PFLAG National. “PFLAG families want for their LGBTQ+ loved ones the same things that all families want: job security, a home, a family, and unfettered access to healthcare and other crucial services. PFLAG families have been fighting for over four decades for these protections and equal rights as promised by the U.S. Constitution, and now they are ever closer to achieving that promise.”

DNC Chair Tom Perez also released the following statement in response to the historic ruling:

“Today, Democrats reaffirmed our support for the equitable and fair treatment of LGBTQ people. Every LGBTQ person, regardless of where they live, deserves the right to earn a living, raise a family and live a life free from discrimination.

“Seven in ten Americans support protections for LGBTQ people, but President Trump is standing in the way. This administration has been ruthless in its efforts to undo the progress we’ve made toward LGBTQ equality. From access to health care to the ability to serve in uniform, this president and his administration have dragged us backwards when it comes to LGBTQ rights. The American people deserve better.

“But no matter what this administration throws at us, we know that if we speak loud enough, if we fight hard enough, we can bend the arc of history toward justice and equality for all.”

According to LGBTQ Victory Institute, The two openly LGBTQ members of the U.S. Senate are Tammy Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema. The eight openly LGBTQ members of the U.S. Congress are David Cicilline, Angie Craig, Sharice Davids, Katie Hill, Sean Patrick Maloney, Chris Pappas, Mark Pocan and Mark Takano.

“This moment has been 45 years in the making,” said Mayor Annise Parker, LGBTQ Victory Institute President & CEO. “The LGBTQ community has come a long way since a non-discrimination law was first introduced in the U.S. House in 1974, and yet LGBTQ people can still be fired for their sexual orientation in 28 states – and 30 for their gender identity. All ten openly LGBTQ members of Congress banded together to share their lived experiences and pass this commonsense reform – and their advocacy was crucial to courting the votes it received today. America is beyond ready to enshrine LGBTQ equality in public life and now the U.S. Senate must step up!”