Equality Act Passes the House

Senator+Tammy+Baldwin+%28D%29%2C+center%2C+speaks+on+the+behalf+of+the+Equality+Act+in+March+2019.

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D), center, speaks on the behalf of the Equality Act in March 2019.

On February 25, 2021, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act in a 224 to 206 vote. This act has received much backlash from Republicans, and a Republican Senate blocked it once before in 2019 after the House passed it for the first time. But now that Democrats control both the House and the Senate, the likelihood of the bill being passed has increased.

First, what is the Equality Act? It is a proposed amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that would clearly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The act once again gained momentum in June of 2020 when the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act protects members of the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination in the workplace. The Equality Act would expand this decision and extend protections to consumers who could be denied service. This has happened many times before, but services have cited religious freedoms as a reason to deny service to same-sex couples. The Equality Act would make this illegal. It would spread this protection to all fifty states as well.

Of course, there has been much opposition to this bill. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) and Representative Marie Newman (D), whose daughter is transgender, had been going back and forth on Twitter after Newman said she was fighting to get the act passed.

An anti-transgender poster hangs outside of Rep. Greene’s office, left, and a transgender pride flag hangs outside of Rep. Newman’s office, right.

Greene responded by saying that she does not believe Marie Newman’s daughter belongs in the same spaces as her daughter. Earlier, Newman had posted a video putting up the transgender pride flag outside of her office, as Greene’s office is right across the hall. In response, Greene then debuted a sign outside of her office that read, “There are TWO Genders: MALE & FEMALE.” Marjorie Taylor Greene has also called the daughter of Marie Newman, “your biological son.”

This has not been the only objection to the act. Many Republicans say that the act could erase some religious freedoms as it ultimately overrides the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993. This would make some businesses have to choose between their faith and being opened and operating. Another objection to the act is that it would infringe upon women’s rights. Representative Jim Jordan (R) expressed his opinion by sharing an article on Twitter that claimed the act would “threaten the existence of women’s prisons, public-school girls’ locker rooms, and women’s and girls’ sports teams.” 

Amongst all this dissent, there has also been much favor for the Equality Act, and President Biden said that one of his top priorities is to get it passed. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D), who is gay himself, has said that the opposition uses myths in their arguments to hide the fact of their bigotry. Another Representative, named David Cicilline, who is gay as well, has said it is not fair that LGBTQ+ people are being treated unfairly just because of who they are, and the time has come for a change to be made. Many celebrities have endorsed the act, such as Taylor Swift. Her song “You Need to Calm Down” was a single that’s aim was to bring awareness to the act and to get listeners to sign petitions to get it passed.

As the Equality Act moves on to the Senate, it is uncertain whether or not it will be passed. The bill needs to receive 60 votes for it to smoothly go to the president without any attempt at blocking its way. Some Republican Senators, like Susan Collins, are in support, but there is a vast majority who are not, like Mitt Romney. For now, the United States must wait and see what will happen on the floors of the Senate, and maybe someday, on the desk of President Joe Biden.