House passes equal rights bill over opposition by 173 Republicans

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A unified Democratic Party passed a landmark anti-discrimination bill.

Unified support by Democrats in the House of Representatives triumphed over Republican opposition to pass the Equality Act, a landmark bill to outlaw discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. The 236-173 vote came Friday afternoon after Republicans failed to add 24 pro-discrimination amendments to the bill.

Only eight Republicans voted for equality and nondiscrimination, and no Democrats opposed the bill. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), an openly gay member who is chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, presided over the House during debate on the bill.

The Equality Act, if it were to become law, would "prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation."

"With final passage of the Equality Act in the House of Representatives, we have taken the first step to explicitly bar discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity for every American," Pocan said in a statement after the bill passed. "Regardless of who you are, or whom you love, you should have the right to live freely and openly."

The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 — but other forms of discrimination against LGBTQ people are still allowed in 30 states. In some states, it is legal to fire someone from their job simply because of who they love and marry. In other states, LGBTQ people can be evicted from their homes because of who they are. The Equality Act would be the first federal law to explicitly protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals.

Republican opposition to the nondiscrimination bill came in early April when it came up for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. Members such as Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Ken Buck (R-CO) made inaccurate and offensive statements in support of discrimination, particularly against transgender Americans.

"Today is a historic day — the first time a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill has come to the floor of the House," Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement shortly before the bill passed. "This long overdue legislation will provide millions of LGBTQ Americans protections from being denied medical care, fired from their jobs, or thrown out of their homes simply because of who they are."

Democrats took a unified stand for basic civil rights — and most Republicans decided to let bigotry continue to flourish.

Published with permission of The American Independent.