House passes The Equality Act

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Photo courtesy of The New York Post

Democratic members of The House of Representatives posed in front of the U.S. Capitol Building while holding LGBTQ+ and transgender flags.

Alex Hopper, News Editor

The House recently passed The Equality Act, a bill that seeks to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The Equality Act amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to explicitly include members of the LGBTQ community.

The Equality Act was originally submitted to the House in 2019 but was blocked by the then Republican-led Senate. 

On the campaign trail, Biden made this bill one of his top priorities for his first 100 days in office. The act was passed in the House for a second time but, now must face the Senate again. 

Biden restated his support for the act when House Democrats introduced the bill. 

“I urge Congress to swiftly pass this historic legislation,” said Biden in a statement from the White House briefing room. “Every person should be treated with dignity and respect.” 

Biden said that the passing of this act represents “a critical step” in ensuring that all American lives live up to the “foundational values of equality and freedom for all.”   

Though the act was passed in the House it is not without controversy. 

Some oppose the act due to religious objections. 

One key fear among the opposition of the bill is that it would threaten businesses or organizations ability to object to serving members of the LGBTQ due to their religious beliefs. 

Religious groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Orthodox Jews, and Seventh-day Adventists argue that the passing of this act could have repercussions on schooling, churches’ ability to turn away LGBTQ ceremonies and threaten federal grants for synagogues and mosques. 

Several Republican politicians have also spoken against the passing of the act. 

Rep. Andrew S. Clyde remarked that he believed The Equality Act would violate women’s rights to privacy and safety in public locker rooms and showers. 

He repeatedly referred to transgender women as “biological males,” clearly stating his disagreement with the basic tenets of the act. 

Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was recently removed from her House Committee duties, has been one of the most vocal opposers of the act. 

Greene hung a poster that read “There are TWO genders: Male & Female. Trust The Science!” outside her office. 

The poster was hung in response to a transgender flag, hung by Rep. Marie Newman, directly across the hall.  

Newman is one of the act’s proponents as her daughter came out as transgender years ago. 

Newman delivered a floor speech mentioning her daughter and her support for the act. 

“I knew from that day on, my daughter would be living in a nation wherein most of its states, she could be discriminated against merely because of who she is,” said Newman. 

“And yet, it was still the happiest day of my life, and my daughter has found her authentic self. And as any mother would, I swore I would fight to ensure this country changes for the better,” said Newman. 

Another proponent, Virginia Del. Danica Roem, also provided her support. Roem is one of the country’s first openly transgender elected officials. 

She noted that Virginia passed its own version of The Equality Act last year. This made Virginia the first Southern state to enact large-scale LGBTQ rights legislation.  

National LGBTQ rights groups celebrated the act’s passage. 

“A major milestone for equality bringing us closer to ensuring that every person is treated equally under the law,” said the Human Rights Campaign in a statement.

Dr. Andrea Hunt, director of the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion at UNA, speaks about the potential effect the act will have on campus inclusivity groups.  

“For LGBTQ students on campus, or LGBTQ folks in the community, this bill really helps protect their employment, and provides housing protection,” said Hunt. 

“These are the two areas that we often see LGBTQ students and young people really struggling with,” said Hunt. 

Hunt connects students feeling stable and safe in their lives to their success in the classroom.

“If our students have those protections, this just helps them do better in the classroom,” said Hunt. 

The odds that the act will pass the Senate are uncertain. 

The Senate Democrats widely support the act, but the bill would need 60 votes to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. 

While some Senate Republicans have given their support for the act, not all are on board. 

Senator Mitt Romney told the Washington Blade that he will not support the act. 

“Sen. Romney believes that strong religious liberty protections are essential to any legislation on this issue, and since those provisions are absent from this particular bill, he is not able to support it,” said his spokesperson. 

As the bill goes to the Senate, the country will have to wait and see if it will receive the same fate as it did in 2019.