U.S. House lawmakers on Friday voted to approve sweeping legislation aimed at barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in spite of broad opposition from House Republicans.
In a major victory for LGBTQ rights advocates, the House approved the bill, dubbed the Equality Act, by a vote of 236-173, including eight Republican votes.
The measure would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act by explicitly banning discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit and the jury system.
House Democrats celebrated the bill’s passage as a landmark achievement by Congress.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, noted that Friday marked the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which found that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional.
“Today is also a historic day for the LGBTQ community,” Scott said. “Over the last decade, we’ve made progress in securing rights for the LGBTQ community … however, many legal barriers still remain. … The inconsistent patchwork of state laws leaves millions of people vulnerable to discrimination.”
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said,“We need to … ensure that all people in this country, no matter where they live are protected against hate and bigotry, exclusion and discrimination. The opportunities this country offers must be open to everyone in our country.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) lauded the 1964 Civil Rights Act for “bringing down the walls of racial and ethnic discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education. … Today, we legislate equal rights under the exact same act for millions of Americans in the LGBT community. This is a triumphant and glorious moment for the House of Representatives and for the United States of America.”
Despite the fanfare in the House, the effort is unlikely to be enacted into law this Congress. The Senate companion version has one Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, but is unlikely to garner broad GOP support in that chamber. And the administration opposes the effort.
“The Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all,” an administration official told NBC News. “However, this bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights.”
House Republicans assailed the effort, warning that Democrats don’t understand the reach of the bill.