LGBTQ protections will be enshrined in US law if the bill survives a strong rally to 60 votes in the Senate.
The United States House of Representatives appears poised to pass legislation enshrining LGBTQ protections in national labor and civil rights laws, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers battle it out for the protection of transgender people.
The law amends existing civil rights legislation to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identification as protected characteristics. The protections would extend to employment, housing, loan applications, education, public housing and other areas.
Controversial Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene known for his endorsement of aspects of the far-right conspiracy theory movement QAnon, hung a sign near his office door reading “There are TWO genders: MAN AND WOMAN” on Wednesday.
Greene was responding to Democratic Representative Marie Newman, whose office is across from Greene, and who raised a transgender rights flag to protest Greene’s opposition to the bill.
Our neighbour, @RepMTG, tried to block the equality law because she believes that banning discrimination against trans Americans is “disgusting, immoral and evil.”
I thought we were going to put our transgender flag up so she could look at it every time she opens her door 😉🏳️⚧️ pic.twitter.com/dV8FatQFnx
– Congressman Marie Newman (@RepMarieNewman) February 24, 2021
Newman, whose daughter is transgender, used the incident in a fundraising email to his supporters, saying, “Greene’s hateful behavior set me on fire and reminded me why I fired. presented to Congress in the first place – to fight for the rights of all in the corridors of power. I’ll never back down, but I can’t do it alone.
Republicans say these protections are unnecessary and would force religious organizations to take action that goes against their belief systems.
Supporters say the law is long overdue and would ensure that everyone is treated equally under the law.
“It’s necessary because there is discrimination against people in the LGBTQ community,” Pelosi said at a press conference Thursday. “I wish it hadn’t, it breaks my heart that it’s necessary.” Pelosi said there had been “a sad event here … demonstrating that we must have respect”, referring to Greene’s actions.
“In the absence of federal civil rights protection, there are members of the LGBTQ community who are legally fair to target, based on sexual orientation,” said the president of the Democratic Conference of the House, Hakeem Jeffries. “It’s not America.”
The House passed the Equality Act last Congress with unanimous backing from Democrats and backing from eight Republicans, but Donald Trump’s White House opposed the measure and it was not considered in the House. Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to overcome procedural obstacles.
Democrats are trying to revive it now that they control Congress and the White House, but its passage seems unlikely in an equally divided Senate.
The Supreme Court provided the LGBTQ community a resounding victory last year, in a 6-3 decision that the 1964 Civil Rights Act applied to LGBTQ workers when it came to prohibiting discrimination based on sex.
Civil rights groups have urged Congress to follow through on the ruling and ensure that anti-bias protections around areas such as housing, public housing and utilities are enforced in all 50 states.
Biden clarified his Support for the equality law in the run-up to last year’s elections, saying it would be one of his top priorities.
The controversy arises as Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine undergoes Senate confirmation hearings to become Assistant Secretary of Health for Biden, the first openly transgender federal official to eventually be confirmed by the Senate.
A pediatrician and former Pennsylvania general practitioner, Levine was appointed to her current post by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in 2017, making her one of the few transgender people to hold elected or appointed positions across the country.
Levine obtained past confirmation from the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate and has become the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.